Archive for October, 2009

Western Washington Wet

October 18, 2009

If you live in Western Washington and were present today, October 17, you were witness to our watery weather phenomenon called “wet”. The weather person will just say “it is going to wet” and we all know what that means. If you know what drizzle is…this isn’t it. It is rain, all day, without relief, until late, just before sunset. When I say wet think of the gutters if the seams have cracked over the summer and there are waterfalls at the corners of the house. Think of a dogs food bowl on the back porch full of water and swimming slugs. Think Helly Hansen yellow. Even the intrepid folks who invented REI are having second thoughts about that hike up to Schreibers Meadow or Sauk Mountain. If you are a high school football or soccer player, or coach, who had a game today, I am so sorry. Make sure you take your vitamins and get to bed early tonight.

And then……about 5pm, the front, which is what this is called, broke up from the southwest, which is usually the direction the “wet” comes from. And the light is special, one of our little secrets here, especially in Skagit Valley. Know that first spring day, the really first spring, day, not necessarily March 21. There is warmth coming down from above, everything sparkles. Or how about that first snowy evening when you watch the wonder of flakes dancing in the street light?

This is what happens here after the front blows over and we get the last 22 minutes of sunset.. Can you believe these colors?

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IMG_0240The tree above is a 75 year old black walnut. Thank god the neighbors know what they have and keep it. Wood workers are hoping for the storm that will blow it down.

And here are some more mysteriously beautiful critters.

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Thanks for joining me today….I hope you enjoyed the “wet”, and are now inside…waiting for the lightening they say is coming along with the next front.

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Culinary Arts….Pear Galettes

October 17, 2009

Today my students made pear galettes to sell at our stand at the pumpkin farm. This is one of my favorite autumn desserts. There is real progress being made with the pastry crust. We’ve got a couple of potential bakers here. One helpful trick is upping the ratio of butter to flour a little bit. Then, a slightly over worked dough is not dry or tough. We also add a bit of sugar to the pastry and make sure it is chilled for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Crust for 4 Galettes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/8 t. salt

1 t. sugar

1/4 lb. unsalted butter, cold

3-4 T. ice water

Mix the flour, salt and sugar. Cut up the cold butter in 10-12 pieces and work into the flour with a pastry blender.

Sprinkle the water, about 3 T. onto the flour mixture. Toss with a fork to mix water in. No stirring or mashing please.

Scoop dough together into ball. If it doesn’t hold, add that last Tablespoon of water and fluff it abit more. It should come together like a John Lennon song. Press into disk, chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, find your pears…..maybe they are outside on the little table by the porch….maybe they are the ones you canned a month ago…maybe they are some canned from the store…these do work, but the texture is not quite the same…and there is not a darn thing like a fresh pear, or fresh anything….am I right? of course. this is my world.

Peel, core, and slice 2 pears into 1/2 inch slices, have some sugar and cinnamon, maybe fresh grated nutmeg, you know that will be good.

For nuts, my favorite is a filbert. Do not try to convince me these are hazelnuts. I know they are in the same family….but you have to admit there is a hint of peanut flavor to the back of your tongue with a hazelnut and filberts are just plain toasty! Nutty! The woods in November tasty.

Pecans would be nice. Or walnuts too. So, 1/4 cup, toasted and chopped.

Take the dough out, turn the oven on 400 degrees. Divide dough into 4 ping pong size balls. Gently roll out to a 5 inch round with a tiny bit of flour. Place 4 pieces of pear in center, sprinkle with a bit of sugar, a bit of nutmeg or cinnamon, or both, and pleat the edges up around the pear, in a circle, leaving a space in the middle where the pear shows through. Brush the pastry with a bit of milk or half and half. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and some of the chopped filberts.  Bake for 20-25 minutes on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Take out, cool and serve with something creamy and vanilla flavored. You will think of something.

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So, I was discussing the word “macabre” with my students today and I found this photo of a halloween decoration which illustrates the word very well I think. Slightly scary, slightly odd, and strangely beautiful.

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What do you think?

So Long to Summer said Mr. Frog

October 15, 2009

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Habernero Pickled Golden Beets

October 15, 2009

Here is a jar of my husband’s famous habernero pickled golden beets. these are just on the cusp of a delightful heat. Maybe too hot for you, but as a condiment with soft corn tacos with fish or shrimp, wow.

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Basil in October

October 11, 2009

Today is October 10th. An extraordinary day for a gardener in the pacific northwest. There is basil to pick, the last of the late white corn, cherry tomatoes are still ripening like strings of exotic jewels draping a weary vine. Roses are getting a second wind, our spring clematis is blooming on the front porch. We are at sea level and haven’t had a freeze yet although about 5 miles in from the water I’ve seen frost on the ground in the mornings. Jonagold apples have more sun burn than i’ve seen here ever.

The shadows from an ever southern sun make one drowsy and nappish on these weekend afternoons. We’ve done our job here, and change is coming. Glorious change, an unknown future no matter what the almanac might predict. Most of the garden has been worked over. there is still a row of potatoes, one of beets, and the basil. We will hang on to it until the freeze that turns it to sludge. I’m leaving the sunflowers to turn to seeds for the birds and squirrels. I’ve seen blackbirds sit on the tops of fallen over sunflower heads, crane their necks down under and peck the seeds out.

We’re pretty satisfied with the garden this year. Despite our late start with some vegetables, we’ve managed a good harvest. And now, we’re both tuckered out, as they say. I don’t think I could weed a row if life depended on it. But it feels good to wander out there amongst the birds, the freshly turned earth. Look for one more possible ear of corn, a slight breeze talking.

I think we had 5 neighbors weed, water, and harvest this year, more than ever before. We planted about the same amount of everything and there was always a handful of green beans, a zucchini, peas, carrots, kale, and lettuce when we were ready to eat. You can dream all you want about the big community garden/harvest/romantic idea, but I think most of us like the solitary work, the quiet heat of the afternoon, after spending the day or week at our current hectic pace.

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This one is about 18 inches across.

IMG_0200The squirrel dinner party was interrupted…..

IMG_0202This apple would have been worth all the trouble….

IMG_0205shadows where a few weeks ago the sun blazed away.

IMG_0208our porch in October….yes, this is a friendly place and the humans who live here are quite nice.

Culinary Arts Class Baking In October

October 5, 2009

Here are a few pictures of little works of art baked by my students.

IMG_0178these were ginger molasses cookies baked for the parent open house. there are several students who have a natural inclination for decorating. We used royal icing for the tops.

IMG_0179these are a cross between apple galettes and apple dumplings…..we used granny smith apples right now, and will move on to jonagolds in a week or so. We use a pie crust recipe with a few pinches of sugar added. We sell these at our stand at the pumpkin patch.

IMG_0188All the proceeds from the stand go to purchasing chef coats for everyone and some great field trips to Seattle restaurants and food purveyors. Ever try a hot caramel apple cider with whipped cream top? You can get them from our stand. Plus pumpkin cream cheese muffins, our signature ginger molasses pumpkin cookies with scary decorations.

Pumpkins in October

October 5, 2009

I promised some more photos of my friend Eddie Gordon’s Family Farm Pumpkin Stand when they opened this weekend. And here are some. I hope to get a few early morning misty ones in the next week or so. And there are more fields, more ghostly spots to reveal.

IMG_0182IMG_0183IMG_0185IMG_0186IMG_0187IMG_0191They grow the usual carving pumpkins and eating winter squash, like butternut, buttercup, acorns, delicata, hubbards, turbans, plus about 25 different heirloom types with wonderful striations, mellow colors. they also have Indian corn, decorative gourds, and corn stalks.

Behind the barn an old stable houses a ghostly tableau, finely carved pumpkins and lights. This is one of my favorite places in the world.

Copper Pots Made New

October 5, 2009

When I first met my husband, Bruce, about 23 years ago, I loved how he cooked: roasted king salmon with pesto, big salads with all kinds of vegetables, couscous! I’d never met a man who loves couscous, let alone knew what it was. He’s a hunter so we eat what he brings home. Venison tacos, lightly sauteed steaks with a green peppercorn sauce…..Bobcat tacos, Pasta ala Roberto. There have been items I’ve balked at….but he really knows how to take care of animals and cook correctly……

And so we come to his kitchen and another item that helped seal the deal in my romance with him….beautiful, well-used copper pots, saute pans and a casserole dish I drooled over. Over the years we have worn out the tin or stainless steel, pot by pot, until this year we were using our odd stainless pans and pots because the copper showed through on every one.

I finally found a company in Lake Oswego, Oregon, called A.I.C.,Allied Industrial Coating,  that re-tins copper. I sent them down this summer and just got them back. I made a tomato, garlic and cream sauce last night….Here are the copper beauties…the casserole will make mac n cheese for 12 easily!

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Cooking with copper can be a dream…and a challenge. The heat can be manipulated so well, if one knows what one is doing. Copper and gas can create the most wonderful crusts on proteins, braising can be really nice too, oven caramelized foods are beautiful.

And, of course, melting sugar for creme caramels and sauces are just the best…..you can get the full range of amber colors with a little attention.

So, I recommend this company, not inexpensive, but they did a very nice job and polished the copper too. A.I.C. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.