Saturday, December 18, 2010


My mom's favorite candy is English toffee, with nuts, without chocolate. Many years ago, when I was still in college and Theresa still made zines, we got a Christmas gift of incredible toffee and the recipe that went with it from a zine friend of Theresa's. I have made it at least 20 times, and only once did it fail me...and the best part is, you don't need a candy thermometer! I'm going to share this recipe with you all. Which makes me kind of sad, because now I can never again impress you with a gift of the best toffee you ever had. Once you know how easy it is, you won't be impressed anymore. Oh well...

To make one small batch of toffee (you can double it successfully):

1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sliced raw almonds (sliced is very important, because their thinness lets you spread the toffee super-thin, and if you don't do this, my mom will complain.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bar dark chocolate (any size will work)

Grease a large cookie sheet, or better, line it with parchment.

In a wide, flat-bottomed pan at least 2 inches deep, cook the water, butter, and sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon (which will turn into a toffee lollipop for you to enjoy at the end). From this point, it will be 15-45 minutes until the toffee is done cooking--I don't know why it's so variable, but it is! I usually set a timer for 45 minutes so I don't freak out about the time, and then pay careful attention to the visual clues that are part of this recipe.

If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in water. Don't worry too much about this. After a while, the sugar will start to turn brown, then turn coarse and chunky. This means you are almost done. Add the vanilla and almonds. After a few minutes, the chunky sugar will liquefy again. (If it doesn't, sprinkle in a very little bit of water, maybe one tablespoon.) You can judge when the toffee is ready by the color, which at this point is darkening rapidly. As soon as the toffee is a deep golden brown, immediately take it off the heat and pour it onto your prepared cookie sheet. You will probably want a brave and careful friend to help you with this. Make sure it's someone you trust because that sugar is extremely hot and will burn you terribly if it gets on you! Don't try to taste it--I mean it. Do not put the spoon in your mouth until it's completely cool!

Tilt the sheet and use the spoon to spread the toffee as thinly as possible. Then, quickly, take the chocolate bar and rub it over the top of the hot toffee. The heat will melt the chocolate in a very thin layer, which gives you the perfect ratio of thin, crisp toffee to thin, rich chocolate!

Put the toffee in the fridge or freezer for a little while, until it hardens, then break it into irregular pieces. I wish I had a picture to share, but I don't.
So instead, I will share a picture of a recent house dinner, made by Jenn. She invented Brussels Sprout Sushi--or really, onigiri. Apparently, according to the internet, no one has ever blogged about that particular dish before, Each of those rice balls contained a whole, spicy Brussels sprout, cooked to delicious Korean-flavored tenderness. Aren't they pretty? Also, tasty. I would eat them again for sure.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Miracle of Hanukkah

"Hmm, it looks like we only have nine Hanukkah candles. So if we light one the first night, we won't have enough left for the rest of the 8 days. What should we do?"

Although I saved all the candles on display instead of lighting them, today (day after the last day of Hanukkah) I discovered three more boxes of Hanukkah candles in my candle drawer! It's the miracle of the candles that burned for eight days when there were only enough for year, I will actually light them.

And why was I looking in my candle drawer? Because I was making my yearly batch of recycled candles! They always end up being red and green, because my favorite store-bought candles are a red one that has a vanilla-cinnamon-flowers sort of holiday scent and Pacifica Fig, which is green. My friend Colette wanted to make candles, so I busted out the votive molds, wicks, and a ton of burnt-out candle ends and empty candle jars, and, like magic, one 28-ounce-can of warm wax scraped off the kitchen floor later, a bunch of new candles to use and give away.

I was going to write out directions, but there are plenty out there, so I'll just add my personal tips:

*Use a big steel can, like from 28 ounces of tomatoes, inside of a small saucepan, as a double boiler. Make sure the wax in the can is at a higher level than the water in the pot, so the can is heavy enough to not tip over.

*Unsplit disposable wooden chopsticks are excellent for holding the wicks up while you pour the candles. You can see one in the photo--just slip the wick in between the two sides of the chopsticks without splitting them all the way apart.

But hey, how is our homestead project going? Well, some good news: Dan's blackberry freezer jam is so amazing that it transports us back to summer every time we eat it, to those bright, neverending afternoons when Dan would show up on his bike with scratches up and down his arms and a gallon jug of fresh blackberries, still warm from the sun. Also, pears picked in October and persimmons and kiwis picked in November are still ripening. We stuck some in the fridge and have been taking them out gradually so we have an ongoing supply. It's working perfectly. You can see them here alongside one of Dan's famous Dutch Babies, which happened to be served with five kinds of homemade jam.

OK news: most of the Long Keeper tomatoes ripened, and we ate them. They were mediocre. Some of them turned all the way red and got somewhat sweet and flavorful, but several spoiled before ripening and some were still sour and a little bitter after they turned red.

Not-so-good news: the greenhouse isn't doing a great job of keeping things alive all winter. That hard freeze at Thanksgiving was really unfortunate, because it's been warm enough since then, but only a few lettuces, a pot of arugula, and my friend Rob's lemon tree are still hanging in there, and those mainly because I brought them in the house when it froze. However, it's still warmer than outside and nicely wind- and rain-proof, so I think it will be great for starting plants in the early, early spring...which is almost here!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Hi from Gillian. My housemates have been worried about what they consider "a persimmon problem" for several weeks now. Let me assure you: there is no persimmon problem. Never has been. Sure, Alyssa and Dan had to install a large new persimmon-storage shelf in our kitchen--but that is just an indication of how little of a persimmon problem we have. We've got tons of them! I was lucky enough to be invited to pick a whole small tree's worth of persimmons this year (about 200 small ones), and have been happily eating them ever since. I usually just peel them, cut out the pithy part in the middle (it's astringent and doesn't taste good), and eat the rest, like a peach. I think they taste like pumpkin and dried apricot. They're good a little crisp, and also when they're a little soft, with that slippery, juicy succulence. Also great in a salad, maybe with a few nuts and pomegranate seeds--this is my standard Thanksgiving salad. Totally soft and I usually give them to my friend Kimber, who makes a mean persimmon bread around holiday time.

OK, I lied. We did have a slight persimmon problem. The problem was, Jenn made several persimmon-mobiles 9visible in this Thanksgiving photo), and hung some of them outside, and then it froze, and so did the persimmons. So I had to use a lot of them right away, and I'd already given Kimber all he wanted...and then Theresa said she needed a treat to give to someone...and I finally tried my hand at cooking with persimmons.

The bread I made came out better than expected. The crunchy pecans on top are delicious, and there are lots of sweet surprises in the batter--chocolate, candied ginger, pecans, raisins, and cubes of persimmon. It's like a fruitcake in all the good ways. Here's my recipe! I started here but made so many changes that I think my recipe is now original.

Persimmon Bread (makes 2 standard sized loaves)

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom

4 eggs
2 1/4 cups pureed persimmon pulp
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 cups sugar

1 large handful raisins
1 large handful chocolate chips
1 large handful chopped pecans, plus another 1/2 cup or so for the tops
1 small handful chopped candied ginger
1 more firm-ripe persimmon, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Whisk together eggs, persimmon pulp, oil, and sugar. Add dry ingredients to this mixture. Stir just enough to combine wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the raisins, chocolate chips, 1 handful pecans, candied ginger, and diced persimmon.

Oil and flour two loaf pans (I used metal). Divide batter between the two pans and sprinkle the top of each pan of batter with about 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Put the pans in the oven for about 1 hour at 350 degrees (start checking for doneness after 45-50 minutes). When a knife comes out clean, take the loaves out of the oven and cool them completely (I did this on a wire rack). Your house will smell like holidays and this bread tastes at least as good as banana bread...I hope you like it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

you want a piece of me?

Two pies -- chocolate bourbon pecan and pear frangipane tart -- will grace our table this Thanksgiving.   That photo taken by Alyssa -- pies made by me.  I'm trying to look a little intimidating in it because we originally took the photo to send to her dad -- who is a big pie chef himself.  He had sent her a photo of him holding his pies with a 'don't mess with me' face. 

Not just those pies, actually.  In addition Crabapple Cottage will have:

* Another pecan pie (one is not enough, and Gillian always likes to have leftover ramekins of pie to eat for breakfast the next morning)
* Pumpkin-cardamom custard (made by Jenn)
* Maple-mustard glazed sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips (made by me -- a staple of our Thanksgiving table over the last few years)
* Green salad with persimmons (Gillian)
* Mashed potatoes with homemade veggie gravy (Alyssa)

Plus, lots of guests and their dishes.  And tons of homemade whipped cream, of course.

Maybe we'll post recipes for some of these later.  The chocolate bourbon pecan pie really should be immortalized... I was first introduced to it at my friend Megan's 'good-pie' party when she moved away to Massachusetts several years ago.   I've been using her exact recipe ever since.  I've made some improvements to it over the years though, the most important maybe being that I stopped using corn syrup and went for the agave nectar route (still a high fructose syrup, albeit less highly processed), which changed the texture of the pie for the better -- more fudgy, less liquidy -- and gave it a more balanced, less sickeningly-sweet flavor.

Oh, what the hell -- here's the recipe...

Megan's Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (with edits by Theresa)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

1 cup sugar
1 cup agave nectar (I like to use half light/half dark, you can do either or both)
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
(plus a generous handful of whole pecans to decorate the top)
 Your favorite pie crust recipe (I recommend Mark Bittman's flaky pie crust from How to Cook Everything, a cookbook every American should really own).

In a saucepan, combine butter, sugar, agave.  Stir over medium heat until melted.  Turn off heat and add chocolate chips -- stir until chips melt.  Cool slightly. 

In large bowl, combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt; mix well.  Slowly pour sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Stir in toasted chopped pecans.  Pour into prebaked pie shell. 

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until center is set and pie crust is golden.  If you prebake, you might want to cover the edges of your pie crust with foil about halfway through the baking so they don't burn.

You will not be sorry you made this pie.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Salsa Verde

If you are lucky, you now have ripe tomatoes and tomatillos rolling in at a rapid rate. You probably also still have some green tomatoes on the plants, unless you have been hardhearted and practical enough to pull your tomatoes out and make room for your winter garden. Here in Portland, our warm fall days have been the only warm days we've had all summer, and tomatoes only just started to get ripe, so I have not had the heart to pull the plants out!

I would like to share with you my general recipe for tomatillo salsa. It is very general because the measurements depend entirely on what I have on hand. It works out every time for me and I believe that it will do the same for you.

You will need a grill (we have a little gas grill) and a blender for this recipe.

1-2 pounds of fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
A few green tomatoes, if desired
1-2 ripe yellow tomatoes
Several mild green or red peppers, such as bell peppers, gypsy peppers, pasilla peppers, or Italian peppers
A few hotter chilies, such as jalapeno, serrano, or whatever you happen to have--or use a pinch of powdered hot chili
1 large or 2 small onions
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
1 small bunch of cilantro, including tender stems
Lime to taste (usually I feel that it's not necessary so go easy)
Salt and pepper

Heat up the grill. Core the tomatoes and if they are large, cut them in half. Cut stems off of peppers, and take out the seeds. With the hot peppers, cut off the stems with a little bit of flesh attached and touch this little bit of stem-end pepper flesh to your tongue. You must check the hotness of each pepper to decide how many to put in. If they are milder, put in plenty, but if you get a really hot pepper, be careful! Even one little super-hot pepper can make the whole batch too spicy for some people (like me). Peel and thickly slice the onion. If desired, push some toothpicks through the side of the onion slices to keep the rings together on the grill.

Throw the whole tomatillos, halved tomatoes, peppers, and onion slices on the grill. Turn them every couple of minutes until they have grill marks and are getting soft--it is usually really fast, maybe 8 minutes total. As individual pieces of vegetable get done, throw them directly into the blender, until all the vegetables are in there. Turn off the grill. Toss the garlic into the blender too, and some salt. If the blender is more than half full, dump some of the vegetables into a bowl. Turn on the half-full blender (you should do the hot-stuff-in-the-blender protocol which is to take out the middle of the blender top to let hot air our and put a folded dishtowel on top of that to prevent a hot blender explosion) and whiz until smooth (salsa verde usually doesn't have chunks). Add more vegetables and blend. If the blender gets too full, pour some salsa into a bowl. Add the cilantro, including a few inches of tender stems, to the salsa in the blender and whiz again. Add the cilantro salsa to the salsa in the bowl and stir. Taste and add more salt and some lime to balance flavors to your liking.

This salsa is great with chips, in a quesadilla or burrito, or used as enchilada sauce. You can add a bunch to the broth for tortilla soup. It freezes well if you make more than you can use in a week!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Preparation

School started again, so I, Gillian, have a good excuse as to why I haven't posted in a while. Everyone else is just slacking. Anyway, this morning we had such a good breakfast that it was gone before it could be photographed: giant popover with poached pear and quince. Mind your p's and q's! I used a recipe from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors, which seems to be my cookbook of the moment. I also failed to photograph last night's pot pie. It makes me very happy that pot pie season has arrived! But I did take a picture of this back-to-school feast that I made a week ago. The pear and quince frangipane tart was the star of the show, but we also deliciously used up a ton of kale in potato-kale soup and Jenn's famous massaged kale salad.

Theresa and I were motivated by rain-free but distinctly cool weather to move a couple of tomato plants into the greenhouse to see how long we can keep the tomatoes ripening. I dug out some potatoes that had been very ill-treated all season, from when I accidentally let them sprout in the cupboard, to throwing them out in a dark corner of the garden to fend for themselves, to deciding that even that location was destined for more glorious plants and planting tomatoes much too close to the potatoes. I got a whole big bowlful of potatoes from only two much-abused plants, which I think is pretty good! We also did our first planting of garlic--about 20 heads. I'd like to plant at least that much more, but we are out of garden space until we pull out the rest of our tomatoes, and they're still producing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

House Breakfast!

Hi, it's Gillian again. It's always a minor celebration when several of us are home in the morning to have breakfast together. Although I had already gotten up early and eaten this salad (yes, those are my very own tomatoes, although I had to pick them half ripe and let them ripen in the kitchen), I was still tempted when Alyssa offered me a freshly made decaf latte...

So for second breakfast I made waffles, at Alyssa's request. Our waffle iron makes heart-shaped waffles, so they're really cute. And I used freshly ground white wheat (from last year's Staple Crops CSA) so they had a great flavor and texture. And it didn't hurt that we had butter, apple butter, maple syrup, blackcurrant jam, and crabapple jelly to put on top! Those last two are specialties of Alyssa's dad, who is also famous for his pies. I hope we will have an opportunity to post pictures of one of his pies at Christmastime (also known as Alyssmas since Alyssa and the baby Jesus share a birthday).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All in a Day's Work

I, Gillian, am spending a big portion of my school vacation filling our pantry with homemade canned goods. 23 jars of Green Tomato Chutney + 5 jars of Poached Quince Slices in Vanilla Syrup + 5 jars of Blackberry-Oregon Grape-Blue Elderberry Cordial = 1 whole day spent in the kitchen + 33 jars of success. I also made a byproduct that is more exciting than the products--a quart jar of gorgeous pink quince juice, sweetened with the leftover vanilla syrup, which I hope can keep me from getting sick this winter.

When I lived in Japan, one of my friends was Araki-sensei, a retired Home Ec teacher and a wonderful person who was involved in everything in our little town. She took me to restaurants, helped me buy brown rice directly from a friend of hers, taught me how to behave at the onsen, and took me with her to cooking lessons at the town community center. She also gave me some of her homemade preserves, which were usually medicinal. Preserved kinkan (kumquats) were for a sore throat (they made your mouth numb, so they worked!); karin hachimitsu (quince honey) was to prevent colds. As far as I could tell, it was sliced raw quince in honey, which then diluted the honey with quince juice, and then the resulting mixture fermented a bit. You were supposed to take an ounce or so in a glass of hot water every day. I got colds anyway, but it tasted good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

This is how State Fair, the massive Brandywine tomato, ended up--on toast with butter with coarse salt. I was too hungry to take many pictures before eating it so I apologize for the blurry photo...

After a week in Arizona, which to me seems as inhospitable as the moon, only much hotter and without that fun-looking low gravity, it is a relief to be back in cool, rainy Portland. The first thing I did upon getting back was to eat some good food at Pho Van. Then I ran around the garden seeing how things had developed while I was gone. Jenn and I picked four big Gold Rush squash and a bowlful of ripe tomatoes...and then picked twice as many tomatoes at Neighbor Dan's house. Of course, we had Alyssa's famous Zucchini-Tomato Gratin for dinner! The squash plants finally have powdery mildew so their season is just about over, but this summer I achieved my lifetime goal of growing more squash than I wanted...almost.

While I was away, the lettuces I planted a few weeks ago with typical despair ("it's already too late", "they'll never get big enough to eat before winter", "it's just a waste of seed because they're going to bolt right away if they don't just die in the heat") grew nice and big! Red mustard, mizuna, kale, carrots, radishes, and broccoli raab are also growing in a way that gives me hope. I was tempted to make a tiny salad last night, but I think they should grow just a little more before I start harvesting. Also typical--now I'm kicking myself for not succession planting lettuces every two weeks. I am transplanting some of these salad greens into the greenhouse where I hope they will grow all winter. Something to look forward to--homegrown salad in January!

A final story from the garden...Long Keeper tomatoes. I have just one plant of these and started harvesting them today. They never ripen on the vine, but when they reach full size you pick them and wrap them in paper and store them...and they ripen slowly over a period of many weeks. We grew these once before and had the last tomato ripen in January. That time we picked them too late though, after they had been out in the cold and lost some of their texture, and although they turned red, they were mealy. I'll let you know if we have better luck this year. Regardless of taste and texture, it's exciting to have a red, homegrown tomato in the middle of winter...but it would be even better if the tomato tasted good.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pears with a View

I love going to Hood River for a lot of reasons, but a big one is how enormous Mount Hood looks from there. I think of it as the way the moon looks from orbit around Earth, that's how spectacular Mount Hood looks from Hood River. So I enjoyed myself very much picking 5,000 pounds of pears (with a group of about 40 volunteers) at a small pear orchard on Monday. It was a Portland Fruit Tree Project harvest party, so the pickers each got a portion of the fruit, and the rest is going to the Oregon Food Bank to be distributed all around the state.

So now, after giving some away and eating a few with this delicious blue cheese, I have around 30 pounds of pears left that I'm planning to can today. It may sound boring, but I truly love canned pear halves in light syrup, especially with cottage cheese. I might make some dried pears too...also boooo-ring! But I am open to other pear recipes. If you have a good one, please share it with me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thai Curry with Summer Vegetables

1 yellow summer squash, sliced into rounds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 medium potatoes halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 small Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds
1-2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (Gillian decided there wasn't enough and made some more with shredded coconut -- so you might want 2 cans)
1/2 cup water
Large handful green beans
Chopped fresh basil 

Sauté squash and onion in oil with salt and pepper to taste in a over medium high heat until edges of squash are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and curry paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add carrots, potatoes, eggplant, coconut milk, and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add green beans and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in basil.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

State Fair!!!

Theresa and I literally went to the State Fair today (says Gillian) and we also picked State Fair, our massive Brandywine tomato! Here it is:
I don't know exactly how much it weighed because that scale is kind of funny. It went up to 16 ounces and around again to the 3, which you would think would be 19 ounces, but there is a big space after the 16 and before the 0, so I think it's really at least 20. I'm going to buy a loaf of really good white bread and have a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch tomorrow! Theresa asked for a BEAT--veggie bacon, egg, arugula, and tomato sandwich. We don't have any harvestable lettuce at this time of year, although the lettuce seeds I planted a few weeks ago are now one-inch-tall plants with tiny true leaves. But the rustic arugula we planted in February, although it has already gone to seed and we've even already collected dry seed for next year, is still healthy, alive, green, growing, and edible! Rustic arugula has a different leaf shape from the usual kind, more deeply lobed and lacy-looking, and it has a spicier flavor. I've heard that it naturalizes easily and I'm hoping it will become a weed in my garden.

Here is some real state fair food:

No, really--curly fries. It's not the State Fair without curly fries. And I should have taken a picture of the Oregon Dairy Women's red barn full of ice cream. Did you know that milk is Oregon's official state beverage?

And here is something else fun to do! See the Chapman Swifts. The real ones, not the band. They're performing live every night in September and it's an amazing show. Show up at Chapman Elementary School about half an hour before sunset. Take a picnic or get some food at Saint Honore or Food Front, bring something to sit on and a blanket to keep yourself warm, and watch a tornado of tiny birds swirl down a huge boiler chimney. If you're lucky, you will even see nature drama with a hawk swooping in to catch one of the little birds and all the swifts forming hundred-bird attack shapes and chasing the hawk away. We went tonight and yes, they are here! I plan to see the swifts at least a couple more times before they head south for the winter.

P.S. Pear Picking with Portland Fruit Tree Project on Monday in Hood River! Be there!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Breakfast In the Greenhouse

Ah, vacation at last! I, Gillian, have been in an accelerated nursing program all summer and it's only now, in September, that I have a couple of weeks off. Perfect timing for food preservation! If only the tomatoes would ripen...

None of MY tomatoes are ripe yet, but the two CSAs and our next-door neighbors are providing some...for example, the ones in my breakfast salad along with Sunroot Gardens radicchio, Neighbor Dan's famous cucumbers that are trying to take over his whole yard, and fresh basil.

I've been thinking about our list of useful homesteading skills. Alyssa and Dan can build and repair anything; I can make all the jam and pickles anyone could want and preserve them safely; Alyssa and I can make quilts (like the one you can see here that will be finished on Monday!); Theresa and I can knit and crochet; Jenn can identify lots of edible and medicinal plants and can also shovel with amazing skill and speed. Dan can do all sorts of things with a chainsaw, Alyssa can sew her own clothes, all of us are good bread-bakers, Jenn knows a million games that don't require any equipment, Theresa and Jenn can sing and play instruments, and I can make paper for all the letters we'll write on long autumn nights. What are we missing?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mixed Grain Rice

Can you believe that the greenhouse is even more finished than this now? It has rafters! Soon it will have a roof and a door and it will be finished! Here are (from right to left) Theresa, Dan, and Alyssa showing it off.

And now, for some recipes.

Gillian says:

Medium grain, Japanese-style white rice is one of my major comfort foods, especially for breakfast. I love it with a super-fast donburi-style egg on top (lightly beat an egg with a couple teaspoons each of soy sauce and agave syrup or mirin, then cook like scrambled egg; while it's still soft and somewhat undercooked, put it on top of hot rice and eat.)

In Japan I often saw multi-grain rice mixes, but I never tried them. They looked to contain flattened barley flakes and millet along with white rice. Today I made my own multi-grain rice by taking 1 1/2 cups of rice (that is two "rice cooker cups") and adding 2 tablespoons of quinoa and 1 tablespoon of amaranth. I washed the rice and cooked it as usual in the rice cooker, adding a little extra water (I filled it to the 2 1/4 cups line). It turned out delicious and perfectly cooked--I would definitely make rice like this again. The amaranth grains were like tiny sparkling caviar balls and the quinoa added a nutty flavor, while the white rice kept it all soft and mild. I ate this rice smeared with a little ume shiso paste and wrapped in sheets of seasoned nori. Any kind of nori is OK by me, but Korean nori sheets with sesame oil and lots of salt are my #1. You can get dozens of kinds at Uwajimaya or a smaller but perfectly adequate assortment of nori choices at Anzen, and People's Co-op even sells a version that is from Oregon-grown seaweed. When I get into a rice mood I will make a rice-cooker full in the morning and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

For the sake of continuity, here's a portrait of State Fair, the tomato of my dreams, which is going to be ripe very soon:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

back-to-school cooking

tonight's dinner, cooked by theresa so gillian could study...

garlic-squash-rice soup

the perfect meal for a cool late-summer evening!

6 cloves garlic
olive oil
1/4 c arborio rice
1/4 c white wine
3-4 yellow squash, cut into rounds
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
veggie broth or boullion cubes
herbs -- basil, parsley are nice
salt and pepper to taste

start by sauteing chopped garlic in olive oil in a medium soup pot over med-low heat.  stir often so the garlic doesn't burn.  add the arborio rice and white wine, then the squash, and a pinch of salt -- saute for a few minutes to give the squash better texture (i forgot that step, actually, but the soup turned out tasty anyway!) when the squash is ready, add the broth (here at crabapple we like
this vegan boullion, i did 2 cubes in 4 cups of water) and tomatoes. simmer for about 20 minutes, until rice is cooked and the soup has a nice rich flavor.  add the herbs and serve!  you can shave parmesan on top if you want.

i also made a tasty beet-fennel-apple salad with basil and blue cheese and a simple olive-oil/lemon juice dressing, out of mark bittman's how to cook everything, which is like our house bible.

did i mention dan worked on the greenhouse all day?

and alyssa made waffles this morning, using bubbly water instead of milk?

and jenn is going to burning man?

and i go back to work tomorrow?

and chocolate chip cookies are hot out of the oven?

and zucchini muffins are just about to go into the oven?

gillian, you should really post the recipe for the zucchini muffins.  it's the perfect recipe. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Midnight Apple Butter, A Timeless Procrastination Tool

Art installation in the kitchen? Or Jenn's answer to the Bag-E-Wash?

Nursing school finals are only three days away, and yet I decided to make apple butter tonight. It was the usual problem--on the way home from picking up my CSA, I pocketed so many windfall apples that I had no choice but to make apple butter or let them all rot!

My recipe, fine-tuned over the years, goes like this:

Apple Butter

8 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (use at least three different kinds--tart, sweet, and super-flavorful; cooking apples that melt down work best)
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Optional: finely grated zest of 1 orange

Put everything in a crock pot (if you're using a 12 cup crock pot, you can multiply the recipe by 1.5 if you want!) and turn it on high with the lid off. Cook the apple butter for 3-6 hours, stirring every half hour or so. After an hour or two, use an immersion blender to puree the apples until smooth. Some apples just don't do this and will stay chunky, but do your best. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the apple butter is reduced by at least 1/3, brown, thick, and making tar-pit bubbles. When it looks like it's getting done, bring your canning pot to a boil and sterilize 4 half-pint jars (I put them in the canning pot while it's heating up). Put the lids in a small pot of simmering water for at least 15 minutes. Fill the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Release air bubbles (I do this by banging the jars on the counter), then wipe the jar rims and threads clean before putting on the hot lids and fastening them two-finger tight. Put the jars back into the canning pot, return it to a full boil, and process for ten minutes. Let jars cool upright on a clean dishtowel on the counter overnight. Make sure they have sealed properly (listen for the wonderful popping noises the lids make as they seal, then in the morning, make sure all the lids are concave and don't bounce up and down if you press them in the middle). If any didn't seal right, just put them in the fridge and eat them right away.

I think this apple butter is the best! Not too much sugar, so it's nice and tart with good apple flavor. And not too many spices...just enough to make it taste like fall. Although while it's cooking your whole house will smell like a candle store...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday dinner

I, Gillian, said "I've given up hope. We're having fried green tomatoes for dinner."

Jenn said "That sounds better than hopelessness usually does." (Or something like that. We're always misquoting Jenn.)

And we did, in fact have some pretty good fried green tomatoes for dinner--with basil aioli, stewed green beans and sunburst squash, and Neighbor Dan's cucumbers. And I did feel despondent while watering the garden this morning because I have hundreds of green tomatoes and not one of my full sized tomatoes has ripened yet...and it seems to be fall already!

But I secretly have not given up hope, even though the weather forecast puts our high around 70 for the rest of the week. I've been harvesting a small handful of red and yellow currant tomatoes daily, and State Fair, an enormous Brandywine tomato that will be the biggest I ever grew if it ever turns red, was blushing just slightly pink today...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alyssa is a little bit nuts.

But who am I to talk? (Do I have to talk about myself in the third person? Who is Gillian to talk?) I, Gillian, am already thinking about how to find and squirrel away nuts for our homestead next fall, because there won't be any nuts to harvest until the middle of our three-month adventure. But I think that we can do just fine without coffee and alcoholic beverages. I don't like them much anyway, plus I have plenty of homemade herbal tea! Dried mint, lemon balm, rose petals, and blackberry leaves, and lemon verbena when I can get it. Although, if we make some hard apple cider, I can further ferment it into apple cider vinegar, and that would be useful...

My main concern is getting our greenhouse finished so I can bring home a Meyer lemon tree to plant in it. And ordering my yuzu tree from One Green World with the gift certificate Kimber gave me for my birthday. Yuzu trees are supposed to be hardy down to 10 degrees, and I can't remember a time it's been colder than that in Portland, can you? But if you can really grow citrus in Portland, why haven't I seen anyone doing it?

Tuesday Night Dinner

Dinner tonight was Macaroni and Cheese from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It was far too hot to have the oven on today, but Gillian rescued a large pile of partly-molding cheeses from her parents' house, and they were just screaming to be used immediately.

The recipe is easy enough and can be found on the How to Cook Everything website. I made the goat cheese and red pepper variation and served it with apple sauce (which goes without saying).

I whipped up the recipe right before our house adventure to Sprout, the new donation-based yoga studio across the street from our house. When we got back from yoga, I stuck the dish into the oven and we ate dinner "European-style" at 9 pm.

I don't know how we would make this meal if we were only living off our own stores. The cheese we can get through the milk man, and if we have success with the greenhouse next summer we might be able to grow and can peppers, but I don't think the Kitchen-Aid mixer has a "macaroni" attachment. I suppose we could make ravioli instead, but it might be better to start searching for recipes that will mate up better with the food we can grow.

At dinner tonight, we talked about possible issues for our project. We considered having a list of "exotic" foods (olives?) that we can "import" before the beginning of September. We worked on our coffee roasting plans (have hints? please share!), and we thought about home brewing. House friends Ann and Kelly are interested in joining us in our experiment, and Kelly started growing hops this year, so we're halfway to home brewing already, right? Ten bucks says my 21-year old brother will help.


actually, they were squash tacos.

in an attempt to record all our eatings so that we can keep track of the approximate amount of food we eat as a household (and to document and share all the delicious recipes!), here's what crabapple had for dinner last night:

squash tacos! (adapted from this recipe)

olive oil
chili powder
*2 cloves garlic
*1/2 walla walla sweet onion, diced
*4 asst. squash (i used 3 crookneck and one 'buttery stick' yellow zucchini), in bite-sized cubes
squeeze of lime juice
1 can black beans
8 oz. pico de gallo
small corn tortillas (alyssa used flour, she had a squashrito)
* are grown by us or from farmshare... everything else from Freddy's or Trader Joe's.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat, add diced onion and garlic saute until tender.
Reduce heat to medium, add squash and zucchini, add cumin and chili powder. Cover, let cook for three to five minutes until tender. Warm beans on the stove while squash are cooking. Uncover, mix in large bowl with beans, lime juice, and salsa - season with salt and pepper.

Serve as a 'taco bar' with fresh cilantro and more salsa. I also made a yummy 'avocado cream' by blending a mashed avocado with 1/2 cup yogurt (from our milkman!), a squeeze of lime juice and 2 tbsp chopped cilantro -- tasty topping for tacos!

I served it with grilled corn on the cob (from our farmshare) and fizzy mint limeade.

Dear friends...

Crabapple Cottage is thinking of embarking on an experiment.

This afternoon, upon arriving home from tea with colleagues, Theresa walked in the door to Alyssa shouting, "Want to hear our new plans?"

"After I feed this moldy tortilla to the chickens," said Theresa, and went out to do just that. When she came back inside, Alyssa recounted the plans, which started with a conversation with Gillian that morning.

As Theresa heard it, Gillian and Alyssa had been lamenting the fact that it was Alyssa's night to cook and she hated the idea of going to the grocery store. Alyssa always hates the grocery store -- the closest one, Freddy's, is so big and overwhelming and flourescent-lit and difficult to navigate, and Alyssa doesn't like the longer ride to more user-friendly stores such as People's or New Seasons. How could she avoid going to the grocery entirely?

Maybe that's how it started, or maybe it started with Gillian's obsession with urban wildcrafting, gardening and growing her own food, and canning all the plums and windfall apples we find around town. How long could she go without buying food she didn't procure herself?

Or maybe it's a way to save money. At any rate, here's Alyssa's plan--house challenge, really:

Buying bulk quantities in advance of the things we cannot grow (grains, oil, sugar, &c.), we will otherwise live exclusively off our land and our well-planned preparations. We will can, dry, freeze and elseways put away enough food to make it through September, October and November. Can we go three months without the grocery store? What will happen to our habit of having constant dinner guests? What will Thanksgiving be like when we only have a few jars and cans left? How did pioneers live without a bubbly water maker?!

Although the start of rationing won't begin until next fall, preparations must begin now. The first things we need to do are 1) begin recording everything we cook and eat so that we know exactly how much food we'll need to put away, and 2) plant garlic and onions to harvest next September.

For tonight, however, Alyssa's off to the grocery store for dinner fixings. (Macaroni and cheese!)