Sunday, September 28, 2008

soaking up September

September's rolling out in a cloak of fog and drizzle, little yellow leaves trailing behind - bright red, orange and brown soon to follow. To my mind this is great hiking weather. So this past weekend we stretched our legs on a few mountain trails - climbing and trekking and resting on rocks jutting out into a foggy abyss. I love this weather for wandering.

I also love this weather for soup (Well, I love any weather for soup, but fog and drizzle and cool autumn air gives me a great excuse)...

Or chowder, as the case may be. This recipe for Corn and Potato Chowder is a favorite. As far as soups go, I don't usually follow a recipe preferring instead to raid the pantry and fridge for some sort of spontaneous combination. However, I actually crave this particular chowder now and again, and lucky for me, it's super simple, very quick, and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. This one is a keeper.

Corn and Potato Chowder
(adapted from a recipe originally published in the January 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine)


2 Tb. Olive oil
1 Large green bell pepper chopped
4 Scallions (green onions) chopped, plus more for serving
1 - 10 oz. Bag of frozen white sweet corn (yellow would be fine also)
1 1/4 Cups water
2 tsp. Seafood seasoning*
1 Tb. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/8 tsp. Ground cayenne pepper (if desired)
4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Cup Half-and-Half
1 small handful chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt

Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the green peppers and scallions and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the corn, water, seafood seasoning, thyme, cayenne, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or so until potatoes are cooked through.

In the meantime, sit back and have a seasonal brew with a buddy:

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Punkin Ale.

When potatoes are tender, add the half-and-half, parsley and salt. Stir to incorporate, remove from heat, and serve garnished with chopped scallions.

*Use the seafood seasoning of your choice (Old Bay if you're a Marylander...) Personally, I tend to switch back and forth, one day using Old Bay and another using McCormick's Seafood Seasoning. This particular batch was made with the latter. Generally speaking the seafood seasonings I've come across all contain a combination of some or all of the following: celery seed, mustard seed, red pepper, lemon, salt, garlic, onion, bay, paprika, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, and even cinnamon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

the fridge and the washing machine

(for Wendy's Fridge Door Competition)

Who doesn't love perusing the scraps, notions, and odds and ends on someone else's fridge door? That blank canvas of an appliance is often littered with little hints of our days. A collage of mementos, reminders, and whatever else needs a home begins to form and soon we have a centerpiece for the center of our home.

Except, of course, if you happen to have just bought a new refrigerator...

and can't bear to sully it with your cacophonous array of bits and pieces.

So, let me tell you about my washing machine...
Currently the home of all things fridge-door related, my washing machine has become the place to post our crazy magnets, pretty postcards, artwork from youngsters, and notes on such topics as harvesting onions, etc...

So, I guess dirty laundry really can say a lot about a person...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

tomatoes for days

I know a cold front is on the way, and I know it's September, and I know I've already mentioned my excitement about the coming fall, but the truth is, I still have tomatoes. And after all the boiling, peeling, seeding, chopping, and canning, after the freezing and drying, salsa and soup, I wanted something a little less laborious to do with the last of the tomatoes. So I decided to try this:
Oil-Packed 'Sun-Dried' Tomatoes with Rosemary

To make these I sliced several pounds of Roma tomatoes into eighths (halves and quarters were too large for my dehydrator), laid them out on dehydrator trays, and sprinkled them with rosemary salt.*
I then put them in the dehydrator until they were dry but still pliable. My machine ran overnight and then for a few hours the next day to get them to this state. If you don't have a dehydrator, the tomatoes can be dried to this state by spreading them on a baking sheet and placing in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven until done.
Once the tomatoes had dried sufficiently, I packed them into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid, added two small sprigs of fresh (washed and thoroughly dried) rosemary, and filled the jar with a nice olive oil to cover the tomatoes by at least 1/4 inch.**

Easy, delicious, and the best way I know to eat September tomatoes.

*To make rosemary salt:
Combined the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary with approximately 1 1/2 cups medium-grind sea salt in the bowl of a food processor until rosemary is finely chopped and incorporated into the salt. Store in an air-tight container.

**Notes on storage and safety:
I will be storing my oil-packed tomatoes in the refrigerator. They should keep in the fridge for several months, though the oil will solidify. I've read other recipes that claim they can be kept in a dark, cool pantry, however I prefer the safer route of refrigerated storage. In addition, some recipes recommend dipping each tomato slice in vinegar before packing into the jar. This method supposedly helps acidify the the liquid and inhibits the growth of bacteria. I haven't tried this, but would consider it for the next batch. I'm curious about the flavor the vinegar would impart and, of course, if it helps preserve the fruit, so much the better.

A good book on this type of food preservation is Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who's made their own oil-packed tomatoes. What method do you use?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

and while we're on the subject...

I just have to mention cider.

I do love fresh apple cider in the fall. There's nothing quite like it and there's probably no need to ask for anything more.

However, I've noticed slight fermentation can yield a welcome variation...
Goodness that's a tasty beverage.

Thank you J.K. Scrumpy. Thank you for making a hard cider that actually tastes like real apples. And thank you for doing so organically.

(And thank you for putting it in 22 ounce bottles - nice one!)

I feel a cider tasting is in order this fall - who's with me?