Archive for June, 2007

That squash on the left?  Ours.  That squash on the right?  From my coworker’s garden.  Aww… 


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About a year ago, Chris and I found a great old garden swing bench at a yard sale.  We couldn’t figure out why it was so cheap, until we took it home and it promptly fell apart.  Doh!

Never one to give up on a failing item (seriously, I’ve nursed our basil plant back from near compost food so many times), I somehow convinced Chris that it’d be worth our (ahem, mostly his) time to fix it, rather than looking for another.  Easy for me to say.

We spent about $30 on wood, and crafted a sturdier bench that looks fabulous, is more comfortable than the originals, and that brings us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Not bad!  Now, adding in the time spent on getting this puppy just right might not pencil out quite as well, but we won’t talk about that.

I love that the one picture we have of the process is of me doing my very small part (Look, Ma, black hair!):


Yeah, tracing a line.  I’m a real carpenter over here.

Chris was the hero of the day with this one, and this is our reward:


The first leisurely moment of my week – a lazy Friday morning with some good books, good coffee and fresh fruit with some garden basil.  And my cat Norman staring at me from the neighbor’s porch.  All is well with the world.


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Got some extra crudite or pitas?  Need something quick, cheap and easy to put on ’em?  Try this dip, from the latest edition of Vegetarian Times:


White Bean Dip with Parsley and Rosemary

1 15-ounce can white beans (cannellini or great northern), drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup fresh parsley

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (the picture is a little misleading, as I used three lemon ice cubes I had stored in the freezer)

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Throw all these ingredients in a food processor or blender, process until smooth, and du-du-dip-dip.

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You may have noticed the creamy, luscious yellow-flecked accompaniment on my last post – evidence that my ice cream obsession has not yet passed.  We still haven’t made it through the last batch, but the farm share lemons from a couple of weeks ago were yelling at me from the fruit bowl.  Soft, beginning to wrinkle and heavy with juice, they were jealous of the attention that all these apricots were getting, and begged to be used.

I’m a giver, really.

Fresh Lemon Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 lemons, unsprayed (organic)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

2 cups half-and-half

Pinch of salt

Zest the lemons directly into a food processor or blender.  Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is very fine.  Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Blend in the half-and-half and salt until smooth.

Chill for one hour, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yum – this is definitely my favorite ice cream yet.  It’s smooth and light, and the most refreshing touch of tartness – the perfect summer cone.


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The fruit bowl is overflowing – something needed to be done to use up all these apricots.  Even all my neighbors coming to the door Halloween-style, hands cupped for more of these soft, ripe, sweet goodies isn’t making a dent.  In doing a frantic search for apricot recipes online, I ran across way more information than I’d bargained for.  Ever wonder how to say the word apricot in Arabic?  Just ask for mishmish!  I don’t think I’ll ever call them apricots again.


As always, my favorite cookbook comes through.  Even though I’m not a vegetarian, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the cookbook that I reach for most often.  It’s huge, with 742 pages of delicious recipes.  I’ve cooked from this book for about two years, and have yet to find a dud.  Looks like the streak is still alive today, because her Apricot Galette is terrific.  The beautiful thing about a galette versus a pie is that, with galettes, the more rustic-looking (read: messy) a galette, the better.

First, for the dough – if you’re scared of butter, this might be a good time to look away. 

Galette Dough

This dough can be used for both savory and sweet galettes – in the winter, I fill this dough with butternut squash and sage, and it’s better than a winter dish at any gourmet restaurant.

2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

12 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (See?  It’s a little scary.)

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water, as needed

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl.  Cut in the butter by hand (I used a pastry blender), leaving some pea-sized chunks.  Sprinkle the ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball.  Press it into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes if the butter feels soft.  I actually left this covered in the fridge for a couple of days before getting around to the filling, and it fared just fine.


Apricot Galette

Galette Dough

1/3 cup crushed amaretti, biscotti, or dry bread crumbs

12 large ripe apricots, sliced in half

3 Tbsp butter, melted (you can probably get away with 2 Tbsp here)

3 Tbsp sugar or more to taste (again – 2 Tbsp did it for me)

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Roll the dough into a 14-inch circle.  Leaving a border of 2 inches or so, cover the center of the dough with the crumbs.  Arrange the apricots over the crumbs, cut side down, making a single layer or overlapping them if they’re very large or if you have extra fruit (Ahem…  Extra fruit, you say?  I’ll be overlapping).  Fold the edges or the dough over the fruit, overlapping it to make wide pleats.  Brush the dough with butter and drizzle any remaining butter over the fruit.  Sprinkle both the crust and apricots generously with sugar. 


Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and continue baking until the fruit is tender and the crust is browned, 20-25 minutes more.  Remove and let cool to lukewarm before serving.  If you have the self discipline of a monk.  Otherwise, promptly top a slice of this bad boy with some fresh lemon ice cream and prepare to burn your mouth.


To give some perspective of what we’re dealing with here – the small bowl pictured below?  That’s the amount that I used in this dish.  I’d better keep searching for more recipes.


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‘Tis the season – everything’s blooming.  Say hello to our newest arrivals:

Here’s my neighbor’s corn patch along with her home-constructed compost bin.  Looks like we won’t have a problem with the whole “Knee high by the 4th of July” rule:


My bush beans are happy and blooming as well:


The promise of a beautiful shiny Japanese eggplant:


Oodles of ready-to-harvest lettuce and cilantro:


And my favorite picture – on my last trip to the nursery, my compulsive plant buying yielded this beauty – purple tomatillos:


The fruits are all coming!  So far (knock wood) the pests haven’t been too bad.  I lost a mint plant to aphids – they were too far into their meal by the time I got to them.  Aside from that, it seems like my semi-obsessive caterpiller picking is doing the trick!

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We all Scream

Thanks, lovely apricot tree!  Well, I tell you what – I’d better get good at photographing ice cream pretty soon, because the streak has just begun.  Somebody invest in cones.


From David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop:

Fresh Apricot Ice Cream

1 lb squishy-ripe fresh apricots (10-16, depending on size)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

3 drops almond extract

A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice open the apricots and remove the pits, then cut each apricot into sixths.  Cook the apricot pieces with the water in a covered medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes, and stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.  Let cool to room temperature.


Try to stop yourself from grabbing a spoon at this point.  It gets even better, I swear.

Once cool, puree the apricots and any liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Taste a big spoonful; if there are any small fibers, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove them (I may have skipped this step.  Strainers are a beast to clean, and I don’t mind a little extra stringiness).  Stir in the cream, almond extract, and lemon juice.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

All I have to say about this is – wow.  It’s like our tree in cone form.  Something about this mixture made it set up really quickly in my normally slow-moving ice cream maker.  I left it alone, and when I came back it had almost overflowed with this fluffy, tart, beautiful ice cream.  Orange things make me pretty happy (thanks for the birthday dishes, Jen!), so this dessert is likely to become a staple. 

Oh, and be sure you have a good little helper to help you clean up:


We enjoyed a huge salad with apricots and goat cheese last night, and next up – apricot galette!  Any other sure-fire apricot winners out there that I should try?

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About six months ago, we got a visit from our landlord.  He oohed and aahed over our new garden spaces, and we all took a tour around the property.  After examining a seemingly on-its-way-out tree, he remembered that it had once fruited apricots!  He speculated that it hadn’t produced in thirty years, so we were welcome to cut it down to make space for something else. 

Sure glad we didn’t heed that advice, because a couple of months ago, we were graced with hundreds of tiny beautiful blossoms, the sign of things to come:


And a few weeks ago, they came.  Tons of quickly ripening apricots.  If we could beat the birds, they were all ours!


Apricots for breakfast, apricots for lunch, and soon thanks to my new book, apricots in ice cream!

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Ahh, the bathtub is blooming.  Is there a finer sight?  Around the holidays, I was trolling the craigslist free section (an unbreakable habit), and came across a beautiful cast iron bathtub, free for the taking.  A handful of seeds, and some recycled water later…


From tub to tub – we keep a watering can in the shower, so every time we turn on the tap to wait for warm water, we collect the stream for use outside.

The bathtub is old news now, though.  My newest craigslist find is this awesome purple dresser.  I have a whole indoor-outdoor vision for our side yard, wherein ordinary household objects are used for less ordinary purposes.  The bathtub is the beginning, Chris is hard at work developing the sod chair (!), and the dresser is my next project. 

I started composting with worms about a year ago.  If you’re thinking of composting, and don’t know where to start, try these buggers.  It’s the easiest, most foolproof way.  You can make your bin out of most anything – we had these plastic bins sitting in the garage, taking up space.  An hour and a few hundred drill holes later…


Okay, not the prettiest thing in the world, but the worms sure are happy.  The idea behind this bin is that, when your worms have worked long and hard processing your food waste, and have created tons of castings (worm poop to you and me), you can harvest the castings easily.  You simply nest an identical bin on top of this one, put food on top, and allow the worms to exit to a higher, more hospitable ground, leaving you with the rich poopy stuff that your garden will adore.  These fine folks have developed a more comprehensive tutorial – check it out!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these bins – they serve their wonderful purpose just fine.  I’m just a little project-happy these days, and want to take this concept to the next level.  Enter the purple dresser, and a free upcoming Saturday to make a new home for these fellas.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Ah, summer.  You bring long days and balmy nights, but take away all the beach street parking.  A small price to pay for a season wherein ice cream is always appropriate.  A cone before noon?  Well, as long as it’s hot.

After holding off for long enough, this Sunday we got out of the water after a nice surf session and headed straight to Borders.  I have heard far too much about The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz to resist.  It delivers on being the only ice cream book I can imagine needing.  Lebovitz has thought of everything from goat cheese ice cream (don’t think I won’t be trying this one) to home-made fudge ripple.

Immediately after bringing this book home, Chris and I sat on our porch step, leafing through the possibilities.  We soon realized that the introduction of this book in my life has made this the summer of ice cream.  Luckily, my neighbor is out of town for the month, and her freezer is practically empty – instant ice cream storage!

Our first choice was obvious – Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.  The downside of being the cook is that you tend to get scared by seeing the nutritional content of the ingredients.  I’m afraid that sweetened condensed milk falls into this scary category.  Try to not look too closely – squint your eyes while pouring if need be.  It’s worth it.


Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups (600 g) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups brewed espresso, or strongly brewed coffee, cooled

pinch finely ground dark roast coffee

Whisk these ingredients together, cool then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.  Couldn’t be easier. 

This is the most decadent, amazing coffee ice cream I’ve ever tasted.  Of course, if you happen to have some homemade Texas Sheet Cake, it won’t hurt things.


Cue the gentle jingle of the ice cream van (ours has been playing Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer)…

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