Monthly Archives: August 2014

Dill Spears

DSC_002812 pint jars (or 6 quarts)
2 Tablespoons white vinegar (optional)
12 new lids and rings

5-6 quarts of cucumbers; sliced into spears

6 cups white vinegar
6 cups water
6 oz natural sea salt (no iodine or anti-caking agents)

per pint jar (double if using quarts):
2 Tablespoons worth of whole fresh dill sprigs
1 clove garlic; halved
1/2 Tablespoon mustard seed (I used brown but any kind will do)

Place jars in  a canning pot, cover with water, add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar (optional, it keeps the jars “clear” if you have hard water), bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes to sterilize. Turn off heat and leave jars in the hot water till ready to use.

Bring a medium pot to a simmer, remove from heat, place lids in hot water and cover till ready to use.

Prepare the brine- place vinegar, water and salt into a pot and bring to simmering and stir until the salt has dissolved. Leave covered until ready to use.

Prepare cucumbers- cut off stem and blossom ends. Cut into spears that will fit into the canning jars an inch below the rim. My cucumbers were long enough to cut in half crosswise then into quarters or thirds lengthwise depending on their thickness.

Place the dill, garlic and mustard seed into the bottom of the hot sterilized jars. Pack tightly with prepared cucumbers. Pour hot brine into filled jars to 1/2 inch below the rim. Wipe rims with a clean damp piece of paper towel. Put warm lids in place and secure with the rims. Place finger tightened jars into the canning pot with the still hot water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes, remove jars from heat and allow to cool. Be sure that the jars have sealed, there should be no play when pushing on the lid. Store for 6 weeks for the flavors to mature.


Toads in the Garden

DSC_0026Toads are beneficial creatures in the garden- consuming thousands of insects in a season during the cool nights. All they need is a cool damp place to rest during the hot sunny parts of the day. I have broken terra-cotta pots and ceramic sculptures scattered throughout the garden to provide homes but this guy was living in a natural space created by logs used as pedestals for potted plants. Set up shady spots to take advantage of this natural and pesticide free pest control.

Plum Pizza

When summer plums were ripe my mother would make “plum pizza”- pizza dough topped with plums and drizzled with honey or sprinkled with sugar (she even used jam spread thin on top) to give a slight sweetness to the “pie”. It was very nostalgic for me to make this today and smell it baking.
1/2 cup white flour
1 package/ 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup warm water (slightly warmer than body temperature)
1 1/2-2 cups whole wheat (I use white whole wheat) flour
white flour to finish and to flour counter/board

6-8 plums depending on size of plums and pan
honey to drizzle (about 2 Tablespoons) OR sugar (brown or white, whatever your pleasure) to sprinkle (about 2 Tablespoons)

Mix 1/2 cup white flour, yeast and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil and warm water. Mix with a wooden spoon or dough hook and electric mixer. Continue mixing and add enough while wheat flour to make a firm dough that releases from the sides of the mixing bowl. If mixing by hand, get your hands in there and knead to form a ball. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Brush a 9 to 12 inch baking pan with sides (round, rectangular, square- whatever you have) with olive oil. Punch down dough that has doubled, knead and with a rolling pin roll into a circle or rectangle to fit pan and lay in the prepared pan.

Cut plums in half, remove pit and cut into thin wedges. Arrange wedges, tightly packed next to one another, on the dough leaving half an inch of dough all around. Drizzle with honey or sprinkle with sugar  (or spread lightly with jam). Let rise for 30-45 minutes (till the edge has doubled). After 20 minutes preheat oven to 400ºF with rack in the center of the oven.
DSC_0032Bake for 30 minutes till the edges begin to golden and the plums are soft and juicy. Remove from oven and let cool till easy to handle. Cut and remove from pan or remove from pan onto a cutting board and cut to serve.

Beach Plum Jam

DSC_0004Equal parts pitted beach plums  and sugar. Our batch- 28 cups stemmed beach plums=14 cups of cooked and pitted beach plums=10 1/2 pints jam. I cooked the above in 2 batches because I did not have a large enough pot to do the whole thing at once.

14 cups washed and stemmed beach plums (pink to purple to take advantage of the natural pectin in the unripe ones)
1/2 cup water
7-8 cups sugar (sweetness will vary with ripeness of the beach plums)
5-6 pint jars (or 11 half pint jars)

Place a few small plates/bowls in the freezer to use to check that the jam is set.

Prepare jars (not lids and rings) by boiling in water for 10 minutes to sterilize and let sit covered in warm water bath until ready to fill. If you have hard water like I do add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the water to keep the glass clear. Bring a medium pot of water to boil, remove from heat and place lids and rings in pot, cover and set aside until ready to use.

Wash and de-stem plums. Place prepared plums  and water in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes until the plums are easily crushed using the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the pot. Place a large colander over an equally wide bowl, pour the cooked plums and juices into the colander, spread out the cooked plums to cool enough to handle.  Set up a system where there is a discard/pit bowl and a reserve/pulp bowl near the colander. Remove the pits (discard) from the pulp (reserve). Measure the amount of drained plum juices and pulp then return both to the pot. Add an equal amount of sugar and stir. Slowly, with lid on over medium high heat, bring to a boil- stirring occasionally. Reduce heat if needed to maintain a slow rolling boil. Taste for desired sweetness and add more sugar if needed/desired, stir and return to a slow rolling boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check that the jam is “set” (place a teaspoonful of not jam on cold plate, place briefly in freezer, tip the plate, if the jam doesn’t run and “behaves like jam” it is set), cook and check to see that the jam is set every 5 minutes. Once set, pour into the hot prepared jars filling to 1/2 inch below the rim, wipe the rim and edges with a damp paper towel, place warm lids in place and secure with rims. Place filled jars in water bath, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn heat off, leave jars in the hot water for 24 hours. Take jars out, wipe dry and label. Ready to serve when you are ready to eat.

Spicy Dill Pickles

This recipe can be adjusted for amounts depending on how many cucumbers you have to pickle. I modified last year’s Garlic Sandwich Pickles recipe to make this spicy version at my daughter’s request. We had 11 cucumbers and wound up with 5 quart and 1 pint jars. I guess the ratio to the size cucumber we grow/pick is 1 cucumber per pint. Better to have too many jars, lids, rings and brine prepped than not enough as any left overs can be used another time.

4-5 cucumbers
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
3 1/2 Tablespoons natural sea salt (no anti clumping agents or iodine)

3 quart jars (*or 6 pints)

3 teaspoon garlic; minced
12 whole black pepper corns
1 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
3/8 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 dried chili peppers (or 3/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes)

Sterilize jars by boiling for 10 minutes (if you have hard water like I do pour a Tablespoon of white vinegar in the water to help keep jars clear). Pour boiling water over lids and rings, cover and leave until ready to use.

Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil and simmer until the salt dissolves and turn off heat.

Prepare cucumbers- cut the blossom and stem ends off and discard (we compost). Cut the cucumbers to the desired shape, I made spears but halves or rounds are fine too. If making spears cut the cucumber to a length that will fit inside the jar to an inch below the rim and save the cut off ends. Cut each log in half then in quarters and place to the side in a bowl or on a plate. Do the same with the stubby ends or simply slice them and place in a separate bowl.

Fill each hot sterilized quart jar with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 4 whole black pepper corns, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds, 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds and 1 chili pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes). *if using pints cut the spice ingredients in half per jar* Fill each spice prepared jar with sliced cucumbers to 1 inch from the rim. I filled on jar with just the ends. Pour the hot brine (vinegar, water and salt) into each filled jar leaving 1/2 inch of head space. (if there isn’t enough brine add a 50/50 mixture of water/vinegar to fill the jars) Wipe the rim of the jars with a damp paper towel, place the lid on the jar and secure with the rings. Place the jars into a water bath, bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Open after 6 weeks when the flavors have matured.

Any extra brine can be saved in a jar in the refrigerator and used another time.

Gluten Free Zucchini Lasagna

DSC_00074 cups (32 oz) ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded romano cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

3-4 cups marinara sauce (try my lazy marinara sauce)

1 overgrown zucchini -OR- several medium zucchini; thinly sliced

mozzarella (I used shredded but if you have fresh mozzarella slice it thin) to sprinkle on top

Combine first 6 ingredients for the cheese filling ingredients. Prepare marinara sauce. Prepare zucchini; wash, cut off stem and blossom ends, cut to manageable lengths (I quartered the overgrown garden zucchini to 4 inch lengths) and slice thinly. Preheat oven to 375. In a large lasagna pan lay a single layer of zucchini slices, spread with cheese filling, add another layer of zucchinis slices, cheese, zucchini until all are used. Spoon marinara sauce over top, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella (or lay fresh mozzarella) on top and bake uncovered for 45-60 minutes until the lasagna is bubbly hot and the cheese melted and golden.

Vegan Faked Beans (and Indian Inspired Fried Rice)

This stove-top version of baked beans came out of necessity during the summer months when having the oven on for 3-4 hours is not desirable. Hence the name, “Faked Beans”.
DSC_0015Here served with Indian inspired fried rice, fresh corn on the cob and massaged kale salad.

2 cups navy beans; soaked overnight, rinsed, simmered till soft and drained (or 3 1/2 cups canned)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion; minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 stalk celery; minced
1 carrot; minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup dark rum
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 turkish bay leaf
2 cups water

Over medium heat in a wide bottomed pot sauté onion with salt in olive oil for 3 minutes. Add celery and carrots, stir and sauté with lid on till tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, syrup, rum, pepper, bay leaf, prepared (or canned) beans, bay leaf and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer very gently for 2 hours. Check to be sure the beans don’t dry out, add more water as needed during the cooking time.

1 bunch kale
2 Tablespoons minced red onion
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
1 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Rinse kale, pat dry and tear the leaf part off of the thick center stem. Tear the kale into pieces no larger than 2×2 inches. Grab handfuls of the kale and massage– crunch in handfuls and rub between both palms to break up the cellulose and place in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, toss and serve.

2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/4 onion; minced
1 stalk celery; minced
1 clove garlic; crushed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon anise seed (or 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 cups cooked brown basmati rice

Preheat a large heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat. Add all ingredients except the rice and sauté stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes until the onions become soft and transparent. Add the rice, stir, cover, reduce heat to medium low and allow to heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve as a side