Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category


It’s gonna be a good summer.

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I couldn’t help myself, and started summer seeds today.  January, right before a huge storm – brilliant.  But, I figure, it’s San Diego – how much colder could it get?  My neighbor and I have decided that the garden is ready for a massive expansion, so we’re taking out another big patch of lawn.  I’m hoping these will be ready to take center stage in a couple of months…


Plus, how cute is this IKEA greenhouse?  I’m summer-smitten.


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Pie Off Pics, originally uploaded by cremarie.

The Pie Off was a total success – good friends, beautiful weather, delicious pies – what else could you ask for on a labor day weekend? I haven’t quite figured flickr out yet, so to see the Pie Off pictures (with comments), click on “Pie Off Pics” above and scroll through…

I gave this one my all, but failed to bring home the blue ribbon.  As you can see from the pics, it was a killer competition!

There’s always next year!

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This and bowls like it have been the impetus for me getting back in the kitchen:


It’s a little hazy, but you can see that the tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant are coming at us en masse.  Somebody better cook ’em up!  Our meal last night used up just two of our wonderfully fresh ingredients – a massive squash from a friend’s garden and a huge handful of purple bush beans.


These beauties were delicious, just sauteed in a splash of olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  They cook to green, so it’s like nature’s cooking timer.  Perfect cheat sheet.

I had this gargantuan squash that had been mocking me for days – I knew it had grown to an unreasonable size, so it wouldn’t be the best thing to eat plain.  I decided to roast it (scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350° until soft, about 20 minutes), stuff it with cooked rice, top with cheese and pop it back in the oven for that yummy browning.  I think I’m re-inspired.  Bring on the harvest – I can take it!


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Tea(light) time

We stood outside, looking up at the house.  Our string of solar lights outlining the eaves was glowing blue with a harshness that didn’t do anything for the house.  At the same time, the beautiful covered tea lights that my lovely sister gave me were hanging between our houses, unlit due to a lack of extension cords.  I credit the ingenious solving of this problem to our neighbor Adam, after he and Chris discussed it at length.  Simply disassemble the tea lights to remove the pretty reflectors, triple up the strand of solar lights, climb up on the roof to plant the solar panel and voila – powerless beauty. 

I stayed out of it, because these two are perfectionists in the best sense of the word, and I’m a slap-it-together-until-it-sort-of-works kind of a girl.  I spent my time in the garden, ruthlessly seeking out and destroying tomato hornworms while the fellas went to work.


The result is beautiful, and truly simple.  There’s a light sensor built into the solar panel, so once the sun goes down, these glowing orbs light our path until morning with the power they’ve collected during the day.  Just as soon as I’m home at dusk, I’ll try to capture it in a picture.

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After flipping on the oven and stove to prepare last night’s meal and dessert, I knew that drastic measures needed to be taken – namely, we needed to vacate the hot sticky premises.  A quick search of the property yielded some serving tables, and we were all set for a summer meal outdoors.

This meal is the perfect way to use up the abundance of summer veggies – a big kitchen sink salad (with carrots, goat cheese, apricots and avocado), Corn and Squash Simmered in Coconut Milk with Thai Basil on top of brown rice, and biscuits from the can.  I swear, I don’t know why I ever try to make biscuits – the Pillsbury ones are baked crack.

From Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets:

Corn and Squash Simmered in Coconut Milk with Thai Basil

1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

1 package fresh, firm tofu, drained and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

2 medium zucchini (I tripled this), diced into 1/2-inch cubes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 large ears sweet corn

1 serrano chile (I used 2)

1 heaping Tbsp cilantro

1 heaping Tbsp Thai basil leaves

1 bunch scallions, including half of the firm greens, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 (15-oz) can coconut milk

1 tsp mushroom soy sauce

3 cups cooked basmati rice (I used brown)

cilantro and basil for garnish

Heat the oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the tofu and zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to brown all the sides of the tofu.

While the tofu is cooking, slice the corn off the cob, then, reversing your knife, press out the milk.  Set aside on the cutting board.  Finely chop the chile(s) with the cilantro and basil.

Add the scallions, chile-herb mixture, and corn to the pan.  Add the coconut milk to the pan, then rinse out the can with a little water and add that as well.  Stir in the soy sauce, an additional 1/2 tsp salt, and a few twists of black pepper.  Simmer until the corn is heated through, 3-5 minutes.  Taste for salt.  Serve over rice garnished with the additional herbs.

Hey, somebody took a layer off that biscuit!


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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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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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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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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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