Basil & Zinnia

Basil & Zinnia Porch

Zinnia from seed mixed in with the basil starts –  my new favorite combo right at the front porch.  Nothing better than opening the door and grabbing handfuls of basil, bunches of sorrel, ears of corn, and a few flowers for decoration.





Flavorella Plum Hand Pies

Flavorella Plum Hand Pies
This summer’s favorite dish for the concerts in the park…was hands down the hand pies. Nectarine, plum, strawberry or a combination of all three.

The best of the lot was the elusive Flavorella plum pie, which I could only produce one time…I must have caught the tail end of the season for that tree. The ease of this dish is what makes it such a favorite of mine and the tangy deliciousness combined with puff pastry made it a real crowd pleaser.

Buy puff pastry sheets and let thaw in the fridge. Each box makes about 8 pretty good sized pies. I just lined the giant muffin tin with squares of parchment paper, then with the puff, then dollops of the fruit mixture, topped with tangy strawberry preserves. Pinch together and bake!

Fruit Filling-Cut up 8 plums and toss with a couple of tablespoons of flour and sugar. Strawberry preserves-made earlier in the summer, just mash up berries and cook down a bit with 1/4 (or less) the amount of sugar for jam…and lots of lemon juice. It won’t set up, but use as sauce…way tastier!

Sun Dried Tomatoes


Ahhh, the summer sun dried tomatoes!  This year I have been making them with Juliet tomatoes from my garden…As the season ends…I will stock up from the farmers market on heirlooms, cherry, pear, and small roma varieties so I can have the taste of summer well in to winter.

The only sun-dried tomatoes I enjoy these days are plump fresh oven dried from home.  Mario Batali made these on a show one time and I have  been making them ever since.  I just do not reccomend you start them at 8pm like I did last time…luckily I woke up (the aroma wafting through the house roused me) in time to save them from becoming over dried tomatoes.

Here’s how easy it is:  cut in half, place cut side up on a couple of sheet pans (might as well make a lot).  I like to line the pans with parchment.  Mix equal parts sugar and kosher salt.  Sprinkle tomatoes with white wine vinegar, and the sugar/salt mixture.  Place in the oven at 200-225˚ for approximately 4-6 hours depending on the size of the tomatoes.  I check frequently and remove them as they are ready.  I like them to have a little plumpness left in them…dried, but not crispy.

To store:  layer with olive oil and basil leaves.  I use like to toss with pasta and any number of additional items from shrimp and feta, to chicken and fontina on top of flat bread.  Enjoy!

The Latest Sorrel Cream Sauce

g-Basil patch

Okay- tonight was a real Crisper Crap Shoot.  From the home garden I have corn, basil, sorrel and zucchini.  From the farmers market I have garlic and pasilla.  From Little India I have red rice.  From the fridge I have a little cream and white wine.

Hot, hot heavy enamel pan.  Dry the scallops.  Sear scallops in a little butter.  Remove and set aside.  Throw in whole head of garlic (cloves just smashed and skinned) and push around the pan….lots of brown bits forming….deglaze with a healthy pour of the wine, some in the pan and some in the glass.  Scrape all the bits, add a couple cups of sorrel.  Add a bunch of basil.  Add the juice from the resting scallops.  Add a cup or two of the heavy cream.  Walk away.  Let simmer and reduce.  Add 1 1/2 roasted pasilla chile.  Grab the kick ass immersible blender and puree.  You now have a thick veggie cream sauce!  Add the scallops back in to the pot and heat through.  Pour over (in this case) fresh raw julienne of zucchini  and top with a little rice.  Best case scenario is fresh pasta of some kind (papardelle) or risotto made with a fish stock…yum.

Rich loves everything…but loved this more!  I think the secret ingredient of pasilla added a nice little twist without over powering the greens.

Kiely asked for a big bowl of the fresh raw zucchini and just sauce…now that’s sayin’ something!

I really do think that picking the veggies about 5 minutes before cooking does add a level of deliciousness and healthfulness that you can just feel when you’re eating.  The corn, from the breezeway (just a 4 x 15′ patch between the houses) is hands down the best corn we’ve ever eaten.  We grew corn last year, but out at the Family Plot…picked hours and hours before cooking.  Well this year, I had the pot boiling and threw in the ears seconds after they were plucked and shucked, then turned off the heat and served a few minutes later.  We could all taste the diff.

Bon Appetite!

7:July 1956

Monday, Monday, Monday. Means I get to pick a vintage mag issue to peruse and share. Tough choice…a picnic, a salmon mold, or blueberry pie and that’s without even going in to the stacks. July just says blueberries and that pie looks good! Well, on the East Coast July says blueberries, but from what I have been reading we should be picking a cup a day next April from our garden. I am looking forward to that!

Culinarily Speaking:

I thought the most amazing recipe for blueberry pie was from America’s Test Kitchen where they take half the required berries and crush them in a pot and simmer down a bit to thicken add a grated granny smith apple, the whole blueberries and two tablespoons of tapioca for a tangy, bright and well set filling. Then they add vodka to the crust! I guess this is called the Foolproof Pie Dough. The vodka cooks off, but makes a wetter dough which is easier to work with. Typically a wetter dough is tough, but the vodka does not allow the gluten strands to form. Ingenious.

Horticulturally Speaking:

I recently found out why a blueberry hedge seemed like such a novel idea in the So Cal garden. It’s because they only recently created a low-chill variety that does well in our zone. Choosing the right variety is the first step to growing good blueberries and then I found this article in Sunset…

“In California’s mildest climates, more and more gardeners are finding that ‘Sharpblue’–once thought to be a rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinum ashei) but now known to be a southern highbush type (V. corymbosum) with low chill requirements–outperforms all other varieties.

Although it’s self-fertile and so can be grown alone, ‘Sharpblue’ does better when cross-pollinated with other southern highbush varieties such as ‘Sunshineblue’. During peak harvest (in April and May), the ‘Sharpline’ shown above left yields a couple of cups of fruit every three days. Berries are large, sweet, and juicy. The plant bears occasional fruit most of the year, and in fall yields a small second harvest.

How to grow blueberries

In coastal areas, plant blueberries in full sun. Inland, plant where they’ll get some afternoon shade. Plants need consistent watering for good fruit production, and acid soil that drains well (Southern California’s soils are naturally alkaline).

To compensate, plant them in containers filled with 100 percent peat moss; or try one of the following recipes:

* The six-year-old in the barrel grows in a mix of 6 parts moistened peat moss, 3 parts azalea mix, and 1 part sand.

* The mix in the plastic cylinder is equal parts peat moss and azalea mix.

From January through September, feed blueberries every six weeks with an acid fertilizer. In November, work in about 1/4 cup of soil sulfur around base of plants.

Blueberries require little pruning. In winter, shape plants and restore vigor by cutting branches three years old or older back to the base. Remove only branches that are too tall or no longer bear fruit.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.

Gourmet June 1955

Gourmet Monday on Tuesday, again. And yes, it is a June cover in July, but I just love this one! I love the food trends of the 50’s with their various and sundry images of molded food. Can you even imagine this amazing wedding cake? A frozen “bombe fleurs d’oranger” a shell of orange ice and filled with a white curaçao mousse. The ultimate 50-50 bar.

Glace a la Orange-Orange Ice

Combine 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar, bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Cool and add 2 the rind from 2 oranges, 2 cups orange juice, and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Freeze in a churn freezer or an ice cube tray.

Mousse Curaçao

Bring 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Let syrup cool. Beat 8 egg yolks in a double boiler until they are thick and pale in color. Gradually beat in the syrup. Add 2 tablespoons curaçao and cook over the hot not boiling water, stirring constantly until mixture is creamy and thick. Pour through sieve and stir in an ice bath until completely cooled. Whip 1 quart heavy cream to stiff and fold in to the custard. Yum!

Lemon-Dill Sauce

dill flower

This is the only picture I have from last year’s dill crop…but I love the flowers too! The dill used in this recipe was dark green and feathery perfection from the farmers market and it was amazingly fragrant. I always forget how much I love fresh dill and how much fresh dill adds to the dish. If I don’t have it, I go without and I would never use dried…it’s just not the same at all.

For this quick sauce the key is simplicity. I might go to more trouble for the sauce and use leeks or shallots and fish stock, but the side dish was where I spent my time last night. Celery root, potato, leek, garlic, simmered in milk, pureed in the pan…then the food mill for creamy smoothness. S & P.

So…I just sear the salmon in a hot enamel pan and let it get a little carmelized, Then add some white wine and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Pull out the salmon when it’s still rare or under cooked, set aside. Depending on the fish, the timing and the doneness you might finish it in the oven.

Reduce the wine, add the juice of 1 or two lemons….reduce until it is syrupy…add salt and pepper. You could also add some cold butter at this point and swirl around until melted and incorporated to give the sauce a nice finish, but you don’t have to. I put the fish on to a plate and pour the sauce over, sprinkle with some good sea salt, and top generously with the fresh dill springs…a lot of dill! Yummy…Super lemony, super dill-icious!