Sketching and Cooking

I found this fun website of artists illustrating recipes. I entered a contest where the artist illustrates one ingredient used in three simple recipes. I got my entry in twenty minutes before the deadline. I’d like to have you think this is unusual for me. Here is my entry:

Carrots Times Three

                                                             Carrots Times Three

Our family loves carrots and Alaska’s are fabulous.

Illustrating recipes is so much fun. In fact, I’m planning on creating twelve of these and giving them to my daughters-in-law for Christmas using Blurb or some other site that prints books. That might mean I need to plan ahead a bit. Maybe a little more than twenty minutes. Please feel free to print this for your own use, but please, don’t share, post, or sell the image. Share this blog site all you want.

More Facebook Friends sketches coming. I’m looking at a photo of the most lovely farm. It’s almost finished.

Here is the website with the contest: They Draw And Cook

The Art of Peach Pie

Although I usually post about sketching and art related items, this one might be a stretch and I’m probably breaking some “Rules for the Blogger” because this one is really more about food than art.  Rules haven’t slowed me down yet and my desire to share something delicious with you overrides rules. The recipe follows…

Peach Crustade

Peach Crustade

Although the title of this post is “The Art of Peach Pie”, this is a recipe for a crustade, which is a fancy name for pie without the pie pan. Peaches are at the end of their season, but try it with apples or pears mixed with cranberries,  or use blueberries or blackberries. Once I cleaned out the fridge of wizened fruit with this recipe.

6 cups fresh peaches, pitted, and sliced (I left the skins on for added color)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, instant tapioca or tapioca flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

In large bowl, mix peaches, sugar and cinnamon. Allow to sit for about 20-30 minutes. While it sits, mix the crust. This recipe for crust comes from Natalie, who is a dear lady in South Africa. She used this recipe to make marvelous little meat pies.

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 cup cold butter, diced into small cubes

Pinch salt

Place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor, and pulse while adding just enough cold water to make it form a soft dough. You may also use a fork and knife. Reserve about 1/2 cup dough. Roll the rest onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, using flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rough 14 inch circle. It went over the edges of the foil for me. I rolled mine out on the counter, then transferred it to the baking sheet.

Using a straining spoon, scoop peaches, without juice, onto the middle of the crust. Push them out to about 2 inches from the edge. Fold crust over peaches, allowing it to gather roughly. Add tapioca or flour and lemon juice to peach juice using a whisk and pour into saucepan. Heat gently over low heat and stir constantly until it just begins to thicken. Don’t even think about letting it boil! If it gets too thick you will have a glob. Add butter and stir. Pour over peaches in crust.

Roll remaining crust on lightly floured board to a little more than 1/8″. Using a round cookie cutter, cut circles. Some of these will be peaches and others leaves. For the peaches, use the cookie cutter to make a classic peach dent by lifting it and making a dent with the rim of the cutter off-center in the circle. Make leaves with more circles by cutting them twice with the cookie cutter. Think Venn Diagram and you can make leaves. Place on filling.

Brush crust with milk and sprinkle generously with turbinado or raw sugar.

Bake @ 375 for 50 minutes to an hour, until crust is golden and peaches are bubbly. I’m not going to tell you how many this serves because if you really like it, you might want a really big piece. Or you might have teenagers in the house…Best served warm.

Recipe adapted from this website:

http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/11/5488744/recipeold-fashioned-peach-pie.html

Preserving Herbs to Enjoy When the Snow Flies

Frost has killed about everything but kale and calendula in my garden. The roses and some herbs are able to survive in the unheated greenhouse, but soon the roses will have to go into the shop and remain dormant until late April and the herbs will die. The fresh herbs will be sorely missed, but I’ve found a way to enjoy them all winter. Drying them is a good option, but so much of the flavor is lost. Give this a try to see how much more flavor you get from your herbs.

Gather herbs and place leaves, without stems, in a food processor, blender, or tall jar for using a stick blender. I used a stick blender. Add about a half cup of olive oil for a quart of loose herbs.

Gather your herbs, whether a single variety or a blend and check for bugs. If they have bugs, soak them in lukewarm salt water for about five minutes and rinse and dry gently between layers of towel. Remove the leaves and place in either a blender, food processor, or a tall, narrow jar to use a stick blender. Add olive oil-enough to make a thick liquid when it is all blended. I add a little fresh lemon juice to keep the color bright, but you don’t have to. It is better to use too much oil than not enough.

You will have a beautiful, pungent, green, thick liquid.

I pour about a third of a cup into a snack size zip-lock bag. Label it and freeze it flat. When you want to use it, just open up the bag and break off a piece. Stir it into soup, casseroles, pasta, salad dressing…you name it! Enjoy the fragrance and flavor, especially when it is dark and cold this winter.

Freeze the bags so they lie flat and thin.

Turning Tomatoes into Sunshine

My greenhouse produced lots of tomatoes this summer. Unfortunately, the variety I chose and our cool summer didn’t give them very much flavor.   You can get flavorless tomatoes to taste like they were grown in hot sunshine. Here’s how:

Cut up tomatoes and put them on a baking sheet with high edges, unless you don’t mind your house filling with smoke, then use a flat one and leave the windows open and alert the neighbors that your house isn’t on fire. Cut up some onions, garlic and some herbs (I used basil, rosemary and marjoram) and sprinkle with kosher salt and olive oil.

Place in a 350 degree oven. Every couple of hours stir them up a bit. They are finished when they look leathery with some blackened bits. This will take about four to six hours, depending on the moisture level in the tomatoes

Allow them to cool a bit and scoop them into a food processor or blender. I add more fresh herbs at this point. Blend til it is the texture you like.

Use this as an amazing sauce for pizza or all things Italian. I freeze mine and taste sunshine all winter long.

An Invasion of Rhubarb and a Recipe

My rhubarb plants are in a class by themselves. If you give them an inch, they will take over the whole yard. The plants are four feet tall and six feet wide with leaves two feet across and stalks are almost five inches around.  I’ve divided them several times in the seven years they have lived here. Their diminutive parents live a controlled life in a neighbor’s yard and I have a friend who has managed to grow bonsai rhubarb; the stalks are the size of a pencil with leaves like baby mittens.

I read about rhubarb and discovered “rhubarb is a heavy feeder”. My rhubarb could qualify for “Over-Eaters Anonymous”. You might think that I have heaped fertilizer and water on them, but I haven’t. They just grow…and grow. The lower leaves end up in the compost, but a couple of times a summer I’ll make a rhubarb custard pie. One of my favorite recipes is for Rhubarb Nectar. Let me know if you make it. I’m happy to share if you would like some stalks, or a plant…or two.

With a Muffin and a Marker

The online sketch group I’ve joined is full of the most talented people! It has been exciting to see how people fill a page and the possibilities of paper, marker, and a little paint. I’ve seen beautiful letters and exquisite drawings. I’m trying to learn how to design pages in my sketchbook to include words. Letters aren’t easy. A mountain or a tree can have an extra line and it isn’t noticed, but letters aren’t as forgiving. And I’m not going to show you those pages in my sketchbook.

Last night I was hungry for a muffin. Not just any muffin. I wanted the muffin I had in Auckland, New Zealand on our vacation last year. It was full of cheese, spinach and fresh tomatoes. Oh, it was so good with that latte! This muffin is close, and it is only missing the vacation ingredient. I’m going to post the recipe below in case you can’t read the letters from my sketch.

Savory Muffins

Mix one egg, 3/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup oil in small bowl.In larger bowl mix: 2 cups unbleached flour, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt. To dry ingredients add: 1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese, 1 cup chopped, uncooked spinach, 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds. Mix all together and bake in greased muffin cups @ 375 for about 20 minutes or til golden. Makes 12. (I didn’t include this in the sketch because I ran out of room, but I sprinkled the tops with grated Parmesan cheese)

Roasting Carrots in a Blue Haze

Multicolored Carrots

Last spring I bought a seed packet for multicolored carrots. I planted them with great anticipation and they grew according to plan until the poor things had their tops eaten off by ravaging moose. Although stunted, they were pretty and I thought such lovely specimens would taste good. I rinsed one with the garden hose and took a bite, and wondered if I had ever eaten a scouring pad before. They were fibrous with a flavor very similar to soap.

Determined to make them edible, I slathered them with olive oil, spices and salt and popped them in the oven. Our son came by and asked my husband for help moving a refrigerator into his nearby house. I decided to go along and leave the carrots to roast. Ninety minutes is too long to roast carrots. During the visit, my husband kindly asked if the carrots were OK, and I confidently reassured him that they take a long time to get soft. A cloud of blue haze greeted us when we opened the door but unbelievably, some of the carrots were excellent. A few unfortunate ones had turned to blackened char, collapsing with a psst when touched.

If you roast carrots, forty-five minutes would most likely be sufficient… unless you prefer blue smoke.

Pickled Nasturtium Buds (or You’ve Got to be Kidding)

Nasturtiums

One day, at the end of summer, I happened upon a recipe for Pickled Nasturtium Buds. I must have been desperate to pour vinegar over something and call it a pickle. Either that or I had too much time on my hands. When I enthusiastically stated what I was going to do, my then teenage sons gave me a look that said, “She has really lost it this time.”

On Thanksgiving, I ceremoniously opened a jar and poured them in a dish. I must admit they looked a little odd, but everyone tasted them and we all decided that this recipe was a keeper. They taste somewhat like a tiny pickle with a little heat and look like an enormous caper.  If you happen to find yourself with oodles of nasturtium seed pods and a bottle of vinegar, give them a try.

From Stocking Up.

Nasturtium buds (the green seed pods, they are too old if they are yellow)

Cover the pods with a 10% brine-1/2 cup salt to 1 quart water. You might have to weigh them down with a plate. Allow them to set for 24 hours.

Remove from brine and soak in cold water for an hour. Drain. Bring vinegar to a boil in a non-aluminum pot (I use cider vinegar, but you could use white). Pack buds into hot, sterilized pint jars and  (At this stage, I also nestle some dill and garlic cloves in among the pods if I have them on hand). Cover with boiling vinegar, leaving one inch head space. Seal with lids that have been in hot water for five minutes. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. It is best to let your capers stand for 6 weeks before use as they will be more flavorful.

Goodbye Summer

Last night we had our first frost. It wasn’t early and it wasn’t a killing frost, but it was a signal that summer is over. Heavy coats with a possible flurry of gloves and mittens are in the forecast. Soon the first V of geese will fly over and snowflakes will fall softly on our deck. Can you hear me sigh? I enjoy the geese and I love winter, but I resist saying goodbye to my deck full of flowers and herbs and I will miss meals with good friends in those chairs.

This morning I stepped outside and took a photo so you could see our deck too. The vibrant colors and the fragrance of flowers and herbs simultaneously soothe and stimulate my soul. The only improvement I can imagine would be to have you in one of those chairs, sharing a cup of tea with me.

What soothes your soul today?

Zucchini: from baby to adult in two days.

Zucchini

While growing up in the Northwest, my brother grew a vegetable garden in our back yard. I had a flower garden in the front.

He planted one zucchini seed and within weeks we had enough squash to feed not only our family, but our neighborhood and the east side of Portland. Unfortunately, other people in our town grew it too. We would emerge from church to see bags of zucchini arms hanging from our car door as gifts from previous friends.

My mother sliced and boiled the stuff until it turned into a limp, green, watery goo. The sickly green stuff fell from the spoon to the plate with an unappetizing plop. Sometimes there were mature seeds huddled among the mass, adding a strange and chewy texture. We were told to add margarine, salt and pepper to make it taste good. We were also told not to gag at the table.

Because of my scarred past, I hesitated to grow zucchini in my garden as an adult, but one day my friend, Bree, ripped a six-inch squash from under a healthy leaf. She said, “Here is your lunch! Single serving size. Saute it in a little butter with garlic.” I took it home and cooked it as she said, then took a bite. Love for zucchini and envy for her plant immediately consumed me. Until that day, I didn’t think zucchini was ready for harvest until it resembled the arm of a sumo wrestler.

Since that summer, I’ve grown and enjoyed the little green squash. They can explode from the tender little baby size to adult arms in about two days, so I watch the plants closely. I’ve found some marvelous recipes for zucchini, but this one is my favorite. It comes from Molly Wizenburg’s A Homemade Life.  I highly recommend this book for the read as well as the recipes.

Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

1 ½ lb zucchini, made into spaghetti with a mandolin

(You could also thinly slice this or make it into small

sticks and it would still taste great)

3 T Olive oil

¾ lb spaghetti

salt

1/2-3/4 cup pesto

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Boil spaghetti noodles in salted water until aldente’. Meanwhile,

saute zucchini in large frying pan with oil until just tender, 5-8

minutes. Add noodles with plenty of noodle water and pesto.

Toss until mixed. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.