Sunday, June 30, 2019


For a friend's birthday, I made a variation of what I was told was his favorite cake: Black Forest.

First I made a chocolate wacky cake in a bundt pan. My error here was not using parchment which, in retrospect, would have a been a good idea. The top of the cake stuck a bit; I reconstructed it as best I could. I ended up using it to my advantage later as it was a great way to pour cherry syrup into the cake.

Most of a pint of homemade maraschino cherries were put into the center of the bundt cake and the syrup was poured over the cake slowly so it all would be absorbed. When it was time to serve it, I made some fresh whipped chantilly cream and decorated the top with more cherries and dried rose petals.

The cake was super moist because of the cherry syrup. The kids voted it one of the best ever.

Happy Birthday!

In Between Storms

We've had a lot of thunderstorms come through here in the past two days, and whenever the sun has made an appearance I went to the mulberry tree in the yard to pick berries. I must have forgotten how many cups of juice went into a batch of jam. I thought it was eight. Actually, it was four. So after a few days I had just about eight cups of juice, enough for a double batch of jelly. The tree is rather prolific this year.

Normally I don't like to double up jam and jelly recipes because then, if the mixture is too deep for the diameter of the pot it might not gel. Eight cups didn't seem too huge, though, so I simmered the mulberry juice with 1/3 cup lime juice and sliced fresh ginger (about 1.5 inches of ginger root, sliced as thinly as I could manage without a mandolin). To this I added two boxes of powdered pectin and 9.5 cups of sugar. All told, it made just over 13 cups of jelly. I strained out the ginger pieces when I poured the jelly into jars. Most likely, I will enter this one in the fair. It's time to start thinking about that again!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Mixed Vegetable Kimchi

Some of the greens we get from the farm are greens we're not too excited to eat. Some go straight to our rabbit (looking at you, mustard greens). Some clearly want to be made into something more interesting. Like kimchi.

Usually once I get a Napa cabbage and some scallions I'll make a batch. I have to say that in the past I've been disappointed in my kimchi but I think it's because I use too much liquid and so it's soggy. I'm going to try to remedy that this time. Also, I had four different vegetables I could use in the batch, so I did:  Napa cabbage, bok choi, scallions and daikon radish. For proportions of the salt and water and the spices, I used the cabbage and radish kimchi recipe on page 182 of The Joy of Pickling.

These have been brining since yesterday and, after a quick purchase of fresh ginger, I mixed up the drained vegetables with minced ginger, Korean red pepper, salt and sugar. Now this will ferment in its brine for a few days. And then I plan to make sure I remove most of the extra liquid so my finished product isn't so disappointing. I guess we'll find out next week.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Summer Has Begun

And the farm share is really plentiful!

Today I picked up the share: Napa cabbage, collard greens, kale, garlic scapes, daikon radishes, bok choi, Hakurei turnips, scallions, 2 heads of lettuce, 2 kohlrabi, cilantro, parsley, 1/2 pint of strawberries, "unlimited" fava beans and snow and snap peas (I only took a quart of snap peas and some favas, I'm not crazy), 1 quart of shelling peas, and rainbow chard. Some was set aside for my friend's half, and then I got to work.

I chopped the Napa cabbage, bok choi, daikon radishes and scallions and they are currently brining. Tomorrow I'll start them fermenting to make kimchee.

With the cilantro (1 large bunch) and garlic scapes (20) I made a pesto using toasted pecans (1 cup) and parmesan cheese (1/2 cup, maybe?) with salt, pepper, and some cayenne for zip. For dinner we had a salad with fresh peas, strawberries, turnips and lettuce and then cheese ravioli tossed with this pesto and some blanched fresh peas. Now I have three half-cup jars of pesto to put in the freezer for another time.

The fava beans were blanched and peeled and are now in a jar with some salt water. I didn't want to marinate them because I'm hoping to use them to make baghali polo; I'll grab some dill next week so I can make it.

Also, I picked a whole lot of mulberries off my tree, simmered them with water and ran them through the jelly bag to start getting juice for a batch of mulberry jelly. The tree is covered with berries so I hope only 2 or 3 more picking sessions will be enough. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Pacific Northwest Inspiration

While we were in Portland we found a stall at the farmers' market selling morel mushrooms. These were fresh, huge, big as your hand, morels. I've never seen anything like them, nor quite so many in one place! This was the same stall at which I got the ramp salt. We didn't buy any morels, but it got me thinking they were in season.

Today I had some chicken breast slices (I buy them pre-trimmed sometimes, so really about 2 breasts but cut into 5 or 6 thin pieces) and I stopped by Whole Foods for morels, figuring they'd be in stock. They were, but they were tiny. Like, smaller than my pinky finger tiny. What a difference!

Using a couple recipes as a guide I made this up a little bit as I went along, but it worked out great:

 Chicken with Shallots and Morel Cream Sauce

thinly sliced chicken breasts
ramp salt, pepper
1/2 cup elderflower tonic water 
1/2 cup turkey stock
3 oz fresh morels, soaked briefly in 3/4 hot water
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tbsp lemon juice

Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and rinse the mushrooms briefly. Dredge the chicken in flour seasoned with the ramp salt and pepper. Sauté in oil until 150˚F in the center. Set aside in a warm oven. Add 1 T. butter to the pan, and then the shallots. Cook a few minutes until they are soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté briefly. Add the elderflower water and let it cook down, deglazing the pan. Add the stock and mushroom water, taking care not to pour the grit into the pan. Once this has cooked down, add the cream and herbs de Provence. Then add the lemon juice. Finally put the chicken back in the sauce, add any juices from the plate, and cook until the chicken is 165˚F. Serve over buttered egg noodles. 

Too bad I don't live in an area where they are plentiful in the spring or I might just get back into foraging for my own....

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Travel and Food

We just came back from a quick trip to visit colleges in California and Oregon. Since none of us had been to Oregon yet, we organized our trip so we could spend the weekend in Portland. It was a good weekend to be there because the famous Rose Garden was in bloom and there was a lot going on as part of the Rose Festival. We even went to see a Milk Carton Boat Race. There was a dairy ambassador and everything!

On Saturday morning we went to the Farmers' Market at the PSU campus. It was easily reached by the light rail which had a stop right next to our hotel. Aside from perhaps the largest artichokes I have ever seen, there was all sorts of local produce, prepared foods, and so on. One stand had a tremendous amount of morel mushrooms and also this:
Since I can never find ramps locally while I'm walking in the woods, I thought that bringing ramp salt home would be a good investment. The first thing I'm preparing with it are pasta and meatballs, with the ramp salt mixed into the meat. I'll bet it's great just sprinkled on grilled steak.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Once again, I have been conscripted to help make a food for a school project. See, the youngerchild knows that whatever I'm asked to help with, I'll probably find a way to make it. Case in point, the lava puffs for Latin class last fall. A few years ago we made an ancient Greek sweet with honey and cherries. Tonight, I was asked to help make some sort of ancient Roman sweet for Latin class.

We found a recipe for globuli, which is fried curd cheese soaked in honey. I bought a pound of ricotta and a pound of farmer's cheese which we mixed together and then added semolina flour. This had to sit for a few hours so, after dinner, I scooped portions of this dough into the youngerchild's hands so they could be rolled into "cheese orbs." Then they were deep fried in olive oil, drained, and the youngerchild rolled them in honey until they were coated.

After they cooled we tried a sample. They're pretty good. I suspect they should be soaked more deeply in the honey but since we don't really know what they're supposed to taste like I guess that will do.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Two Hives Again

One of the issues I have with these top bar hives is that when the colony expands, they have no place to go but to leave. With a Langstroth I'd be able to tack on another box and give them room so they'd be less likely to swarm. I've been looking into a Langstroth setup, as it might make things easier in the long run but, for now, I have these two top bar hives.

When I checked on Beeyoncé's hive today it was FULL. Brood, honey, everything. The colony had moved all the way to the back and was starting to make swarm cells. I was prepared for this, however, so I moved the combs with the swarm cells and some honey comb into the other hive. I did not see Beeyoncé, which always worries me a bit when I do this, because I am afraid that if I move her into the other hive by accident I'll mess up the dynamic. I looked at each comb I sent over as carefully as possible and didn't see her, but I didn't see her on the ones that were left, either. It's quite possible I just missed her as there were SO MANY BEES.

I plan to leave them alone for the next few weeks and will check on them towards the end of the month. By then I should know if they're both queened and doing OK.