September 13, 2014
For the Love of Okra

Roasted Okra

It was my first time shopping at a Farmer’s market and I didn’t know what I was looking for. I only knew that the okra should be small. As I jostled the pods around in the basket, trying to look like I knew what I wanted, I decided to go with my gut: I bought the whole basket. Then I proceeded home to cook the first real meal of my…

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September 7, 2014

IMG_8467Sometimes the baby refuses to sleep. She forces herself awake over and over again. As fools in love we make excuses for her. “Oh, it’s teething pain,” we say the first time. Next, “She’s in the middle of a growth spurt,” or “Maybe she had a bad dream.” Finally we become frustrated and desperate until at last she curls up with her soft crocheted blanket and sleeps like an angel. We breath heavy sighs of relief, then as the lovesick do, we miss her.

It is nice to relax, though. Today we used the time to eat the dessert I made yesterday. Mr. L’s Aunt Ro gave us (in her usual generous fashion) bags full of things from her garden. Vases of basil and mint have scented our kitchen and intrigued the cat all week. Then yesterday, the house fell quiet as baby L—and Mr. L—were napping and I settled into the kitchen to make the first real dessert in the new apartment: basil panna cottas.

Whenever someone asks me what panna cotta is I give the most basic definition: milk Jello. Knowing that does not sell the dessert that I am probably requesting to share with someone, I follow it with: It’s like a creamy custard made with gelatin instead of flour and eggs. Panna cotta fits my easy-going style of cooking now—it involves few ingredients and can be flavored with anything such as the last of the summer basil. The fresh watermelon adds just the right amount of crunch to balance the creamy dessert. And as my story above proves, it is a great make-ahead dessert. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

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Basil Panna Cottas

1 cup milk
1 1-oz. packet plain unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean split length-wise and the seeds scraped or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup basil leaves, packed

In a small bowl add 1/4 cup of the milk and sprinkle the gelatin over the milk. Set aside to allow the gelatin to soften for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, the vanilla seeds, and the basil. Heat over medium to medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or a bowl with a spout. Discard the basil. Stir in the gelatin, mixing well for several minutes to make sure it is completely dissolved and no lumps of gelatin remain. Cool slightly. Rinse 6 to 8 small dishes or ramekins and do not dry them (this will help with unmolding the panna cottas). Place on a tray and cover with plastic. Place in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours and up to a day. Just before serving, run a thin knife around the edge of the dishes to loosen the panna cotta. Dip the dish in warm water then turn out on to a serving plate. If the panna cottas do not come out of the dish, just serve them right in the dish. Sprinkle with diced water melon right before serving and basil flowers if you have them.

http://wp.me/p2pWY7-ML Sometimes the baby refuses to sleep. She forces herself awake over and over again. As fools in love we make excuses for her.

August 29, 2014
Frozen Lavender Lemonade

IMG_8279IMG_8250We’ve moved! And it was the worst move ever. If there was a snag to be had, we had it. It was real. Now the boxes and unpleasant people are gone and we can breathe again in a our new apartment which already feels so much more like home than the treehouse. I’ve spent the week washing newspaper smudges from dishes and wiping the moving dust off of everything. Now I am ready to cook. Actually, I need

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August 17, 2014
Milestones: Back from Vacation and On the Move

Milestones: Back from Vacation and On the Move

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Vacation is to blame for my two-week lapse in posting. I was busy with watching the waves, digging hole after useless hole in the sand with my feet, and reading from an actual paper-and-glue book. It was glorious. Vacation is a milestone. It is the final event that, for me, makes summer, summer. I will wash the sand from our swim suits and beach towels, pack them for the year, and start…

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July 30, 2014

IMG_7899shoestring french fries, peach ketchupIn contrast to last week’s raging heat and humidity, the past two days have felt almost like fall. Or at least like the dwindling days of August not July. It has been great. I’ve taken the baby for a walk, moved her jumperoo by the screened door so she could bounce around to the breeze, and made French fries for lunch. How do French fries fit into all of this? With the door and windows open anyway, frying sounded like a good idea. Plus, I had peach ketchup in the freezer that I made when Mr. L brought all those peaches home. And, I am totally procrastinating packing, cleaning, and all around getting it together for our back-to-back beach vacation and move. I am totally checked out. French fries for lunch it is!

The ketchup is tangy, sweet and spicy. It actually can double as a barbecue sauce and is fabulous slathered on a piece of grilled chicken or pork chops. Either way, it’s my new favorite thing and is dangerously addictive. If you don’t want to mess with frying, it’s great with plain ole bagged potato chips. (Again, addicted.) The ketchup freezes like a champ, too, so you can make a batch and freeze in an ice cube tray to enjoy a single serving at a time long after summer has ended. Happy condiment making!

Peach Ketchup

The ingredient list may seem like a lot but look through it—many of these things may already be in your pantry. Plus, the instructions are short!

5 peaches, pitted and roughly chopped (3 cups)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 tsp. chile flakes and black pepper
1/3 cup. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a 4-quart sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to low or medium-low to keep it at a simmer for 30 minutes to an hour or until it has thickened. (The longer it simmers, the richer the flavor will be.) Cool and pour into a jar or freezer container. It can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen up to 6 months.

Shoestring French Fries

This recipe is adapted from Saveur and is very straight forward—just potatoes fried in oil. I only used half of one large russet potato since it was for me. (I will use the other half to make fries for Mr. L tonight). This recipe makes two generous side servings or enough for four to snack on. You can, of course, double the recipe if you feel like frying your pants off.

1 large russet potato (peeled, if you so desire—I skipped that step)
Canola oil for frying
Salt, to taste

Slice a thin slice off the bottom of the potato so that it is flat on one side and doesn’t roll while slicing. Slice into thin planks then slice the planks into matchsticks. Place in a large bowl of water until right before frying. In a large saucepan or pot pour in 2 inches of oil. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 375°F – 380°F (If you don’t have a thermometer, add a small piece of potato to the oil to test it. When it bubbles furiously the oil is hot enough.) As the oil heats, drain the potatoes and place them on a kitchen towel. Blot with the towel until they are very dry. Fry in 4 or 5 batches for 2 to 3 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown. Remove with metal tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or newspaper. Sprinkle with salt and serve with the Peach Ketchup.

shoestring french fries, peach ketchup

Shoestring French Fries with Peach Ketchup In contrast to last week’s raging heat and humidity, the past two days have felt almost like fall.

July 23, 2014
The Hot Dog Days of Summer

The Hot Dog Days of Summer

IMG_7516In honor of National Hot Dog Day and the fact that this has been the hottest, most humid, most sweaty week of summer yet,  I have these three hot dog ideas to share. The hot dog chili is one I got from my mom who, I believe, got it from an old church cookbook, so you know it is legit. It is pretty fool-proof. Enjoy!

Pickled Slaw Dog:Toss shredded cabbage with thinly sliced jalapeño or serrano…

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July 21, 2014
Pure and Simple Cherry Tart with a Buttery Biscuit Crust

Pure and Simple Cherry Tart with a Buttery Biscuit Crust

Sour Cherry Tart, pie cherries, two for the moon

Queen Anne’s lace flowers make the tart look all the sweeter. (Don’t worry, they’re food safe.)

There is only one week left in July. We have now passed 2014′s halfway mark and no matter how much I recognize it, the second half will not go any slower. I still need to make the time to do some summer living like reading that book I bought in May and breaking in my floppy hat by the pool. At least I…

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July 9, 2014
DIY: Rustic Dip-Dyed Napkins

DIY: Rustic Dip-Dyed Napkins

IMG_7475Last week I gave old cloth new life. Like the generations of women who came before me, I turned scraps into something vibrant and fresh. It was an effort to de-stress through trying something new. To live in a moment of cloth and dye, color and contrast, while the world went on around me. An effort to chip away at the thoughts that build up on my mind some days like frosted glass making it hard…

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July 4, 2014
Thunderstorms and Fireworks

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There is so much life lived between the months of May and September. My mother once said, in reference to memories from her childhood, “In my mind, it’s like it was always summer.”

I think about this sometimes when I find myself doing summery things that I’ve done since childhood like sucking the nectar from a honeysuckleflower, staying outside late into the evening watching fireflies and…

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June 29, 2014

Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream, no cook ice creamI am ending my month o’ ice cream with a classic family recipe: Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Growing up, cookouts in my family’s yard would often end with homemade ice cream, typically this one. Creamy, super sweet, and studded with crunchy bits of peanut butter it tastes just like childhood summers. And it is a suiting finish to a 4th of July gathering this week—I mean, what could be more all-American than peanut butter?

Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I cut the recipe down to fit my 1 1/2-quart ice cream maker, but I have also included the original recipe for a large 4- to 5-quart ice cream maker—perfect for a crowd. The evaporated milk and condensed milk can be found in the baking section of the grocery store.

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

1. In a large bowl combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter. Stir together. Place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or more.

2. Stir the mixture and pour it into a 1 1/2-quart ice cream canister. Freeze 20 to 30 minutes or until the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Scoop into a freezer container and freeze an hour to ripen and harden slightly before serving.

For a 4- to 5-quart Ice Cream Maker

2 12-oz. cans evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 to 1 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
milk (see directions below for how much to add)
Ice and Ice Cream Salt for freezing the ice cream

1. In a large bowl combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter. Stir together. Place in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or more.

2. Stir the mixture and pour into the metal canister of a 4-quart ice cream maker. Add enough milk to reach the fill line on the freezer container. Place in the ice cream maker and layer ice and ice cream salt around the canister. Follow the manufacturers directions for freezing the ice cream.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream I am ending my month o’ ice cream with a classic family recipe: Crunchy Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

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