seeing red (berries)

Yeah, that drawing (not mine – artist unknown to me) is how I started to feel after three days of dealing with 30 Ibs of U-Pick strawberries that we picked last Monday at Bissett Farms in Delta. It was worth all the trouble though, because damn, those berries are tasty. So juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of tartness. Scott and I froze the majority of the berries for future use, but I also used my mom’s dehydrator to make some dried strawberry slices, and a strawberry-sage-basil fruit leather using our garden herbs from the balcony. It turned out to be really tasty! It’s difficult not to eat all of it at once, so I’ve hidden it in our pantry to pick at gradually.

I based my fruit leather recipe on this one I found via Gojee.com. I decided I didn’t want the basil to be as present, so I used only 6 medium sized leaves of basil and a small handful of the rainbow sage. The result is a fragrant, tangy leather. Mmmm.

I used fresh basil and rainbow sage from our garden.

It’s super easy (just blend and pour) and is best made with really ripe fruit. Our dehydrator took about 11 hours to dry the leather, and I planned it somewhat poorly by starting the dehydrating a little early, and then realizing that I’d have to wake up at 4 AM to check it.. but I took a risk and just slept to my usual 8 AM which was perhaps a little longer than it should have been drying, but all in all still tasty and chewy. Next time I will think before I press the On switch.

Day three of strawberry processing involved my first try at making jam. The idea of making jam used to freak me out because of the sterilization process, so I went easy for the first time and made a small batch since I don’t have a hot water bath. I tried the inversion method but am still keeping the two 500 ml jars in the fridge to be safe.

I used another recipe via gojee.com, for strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. This recipe uses a microwave to cook the berries, which I am not really a fan of, so I used the stove top and followed the instructions on the pectin package for the cooking process.

jammin

Unfortunately following two recipes was probably not the best idea considering it was my first time making jam. Rather than go with my instincts, I followed the cook time on the package which seemed fine initially, but when I poured the jam into jars it was pretty runny. I just kept going however, and the result isn’t bad at all. It’s more of a compote style – on the saucy side rather than the jammy side. The flavour is awesome – not too sweet, with a hint of that vinegar zip. It also has a pretty deep red colour from those gorgeous dark red berries we picked. The only thing I might change is to add a bit more pepper, and probably more pectin if the berries I have next time are as ripe as these were.

I’ve learned a lot this week in the world of food, mainly that the things I thought were really time consuming and difficult are in fact pretty easy! Perhaps still just as time consuming as I imagined though.. hehe.  I can’t wait to go blueberry picking next! Hurray for local berries.


cooking in the caboose – balsamic fig and prosciutto pasta

Have I mentioned how much we are really loving our kitchen? Oh, probably just a few times. It may be small, but it’s got some serious equipment and the galley-style layout is easy to work in. Our Fisher-Paykel range is not the AGA Companion that I longed for, but we aren’t rolling in piles of money (yet), so it was the next best option, and is also pretty sweet.

Today I wanted to share one of our favourite pasta recipes, inspired about four years ago by a big, juicy bag of figs I acquired when I was a landscaper. The property owner had these figs coming out of her ears via her large fig tree, so I happily took a few off her hands. They were so ripe, they weren’t actually all that edible on their own, and were more of a sauce. The light went off in my little head and I tried to figure out what would be an interesting way to use these saucy little girls. The result: a fig-balsamic sauce on pasta, with broiled prosciutto.

Paired with a French off-dry rose. Unfortunately I’ve recycled the bottle and can’t remember what it was.

Scott and I tend to morph recipes each time we make them, so if you want to try this I encourage you to try your own variation. Also, my measurements are approximate so don’t worry about being too close to the mark. Serves 2 hungry adults, or 4 dieting.

INGREDIENTS
250 g pasta of your choice (we used 6 bundles of Tagliatelle this time)
6 ripe figs, cut into quarters
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp brown sugar
pinch sea salt

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
small green pepper, sliced
handful of pitted black olives
1 Tbsp capers
75 g italian prosciutto, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp asiago or parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 Tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped
fresh ground black pepper to taste

METHOD

1. Put water on to boil for pasta. Chop up/ prepare your ingredients.

2. In a small sauce pan, combine figs, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and sea salt. Heat on med-low temperature until figs start to break down and sauce starts to thicken. I smush the figs a bit with my spoon as I’m stirring. Stir often. About 10 minutes later you should have a softly bubbling sauce. If it seems to thick, just add a bit more balsamic and/or water and heath through. Cover and turn off the burner.


3. Lay prosciutto slices on a broiling pan and turn on your oven’s broiler.

4. When your pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and pasta.

5. In medium frying pan or sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and fry for a minute or two until they soften and are fragrant.

6. Put your prosciutto in the broiler and keep an eye on it as it only takes a couple of minutes to get crispy!

7. Back to your shallots and garlic – add the green pepper, olives and capers. Sauté for another 2 minutes, and then add your fig sauce. Turn down the heat to low and stir until everything is combined and heated through.

8.Your prosciutto should be ready by now as well. Take it out, let it cool off for a minute, then transfer to your cutting board and chop it up coarsely.

9. Your pasta is probably done now too – drain it, divide onto plates, then pour on your sauce/veggies, top with prosciutto, cheese, basil and pepper. Enjoy!


settling in

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since we moved in. Time flies when you’re having fun as they say. It’s been so amazing living in our pint-sized house so far. It’s so bright, new and cozy. We feel so lucky to be in here. The first couple of days, we felt like we were staying in someone else’s beautiful new place and would have to leave soon! It’s feeling much more like our own now, with our personal touches around the house. I thought I’d give a virtual tour of what we’ve done with the place. Look for captions in the slideshow for descriptions. Friends who have visited have told us we’ve done a great job balancing modern and traditional design and created a cozy, liveable place. I think I have to agree with that! Thank you, Smallworks, for helping us design such a beautiful new home.

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So, what’s next? Well, we’re waiting on our custom adjustable coffee/dining table, which is being designed and built by a talented friend of ours, Dave Myers. We look forward to sharing the final product with you!

In the meantime, one of the things we’ve been enjoying most is using our new fancy kitchen. One of our favourite websites to get recipe ideas from these days is Gojee. It sources out some of the best food blogs around the internet and organizes them in an attractive, easy to use website and smart phone application.

Tonight’s meal makes use of our garden kale: Shrimp Quesadillas with Kale. Yum! Click the image to visit the recipe. Until next time!