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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Puff Pastry Pizza

Here is my homemade version of the Trader Joe’s Margherita Pizza. All you need is a package frozen puff pastry, one large sliced tomato, some shredded cheese, and a few chopped herbs.

Before you start assembling the ingredients, thaw out one puff pastry from the package. (They usually come in packs of two.) The brand I used took about 40 minutes to thaw. After the puff pastry is ready, unfold it and place on a baking sheet. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice one big tomato and get yourself some herbs. I use chopped basil and oregano leaves.

Sprinkle the shredded cheese on the puff pastry. (I’ve used both mozzarella and cheddar cheese.) Place the tomatoes on top of the cheese then scatter the herbs over the tomatoes.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is fluffy and golden. Let the pizza rest for a few minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Here is a useful recipe for all those end-of-season green tomatoes hanging around the garden. I am waiting two weeks before tasting these pickled green tomatoes, so I will let you know how they turn out.

To make your own pickled green tomatoes, quarter enough tomatoes to fit inside a glass jar of your choosing.

Add one sliced hot pepper with seeds.

Then add one tablespoon each of salt and peppercorns, four sliced cloves of garlic (I also added a few garlic scapes because I needed to use them up), and three or four sprigs of dill. Fill the jar with white vinegar and place in the refrigerator for two weeks before tasting. Can’t wait to see how these turn out!

Homemade Herbs de Provence

Purchasing a pre-made Herbs de Provence blend can be expensive, so I decided to make my own. The flavorful herbal mixture is often used to season meat and fish dishes, and in stews. Historically, Herbs de Provence is a combination of rosemary, savory, marjoram, thyme, and sometimes lavender. While mine is not a “traditional” blend, I did whip up a tasty and aromatic concoction from the herbs growing in my garden (free! and organic!) For this batch I used savory, basil, thyme, and oregano.

A week prior, I snipped the herbs from their containers and hung them to dry in the garage. My drying method is pretty basic: bunch the herbs together, wrap the bunch with a piece of twine, and hang it on a nail from the rafter beams. When they were ready, I stripped the dried leaves from the stems one herb at a time. Then I combined the herbs together in bowl with my fingers. After they were incorporated, I placed my Herbs de Provence in a glass jar and sealed it up. So far I’ve used it on baked chicken, with great results.

Thyme

Savory

Basil

Oregano

Marrying the herbs together

The final, flavorful product

Growing My Own

90% of this meal came from my own garden.

That’s a pretty satisfying feeling, and a brand new one for me.

Prickly Pear Cactus fruiting in Coyote Hills

Here are some photos I took at the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve in West Coyote Hills, Fullerton. Hiking trails in this area provide views of the San Gabriel and San Bernadino mountain ranges, downtown Los Angeles, and Catalina Island.

 

 

 

Coyote Hills is a controversial topic around these parts. The largest undeveloped area in north Orange County, the Hills are owned by Chevron Texaco. The company plans to build homes and commercial properties on the remaining untouched 510 acres. A flourishing habitat for many plant and animal species, the area is home to some of the last wild landscapes in this area. This Coastal Prickly Pear is an endangered plant, but Coyote Hills is one place it still flourishes.

Tomato and Zucchini Bake

Here’s a great little recipe for the high tides of summer when you have lots and lots of tomatoes and zucchinis and you’ve already cooked them just about every way possible.

You’ll need:

Olive oil

Grated parmesan cheese

Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (homemade or store bought)

One or two big tomatoes, sliced

One large zucchini or several small ones, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Moisten the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil

Place a layer of zucchini in the bottom of the dish. Top it with some cheese & breadcrumbs.

Follow with a layer of tomatoes, also topped with cheese & breadcrumbs.

Continue layering until you’ve run out of ingredients or reached the top of your dish.

Bake uncovered until the top is brown, around 20 minutes to a half hour.

 

 

Kitchen Shelves

When we first moved into our house, I wasn’t sure how I was going to work with the red painted trim that wrapped around kitchen. (And the red and gold ceiling fans and the red rooster curtains…ahem…) But after scouting the antique market, I happened upon this red shelving, and I knew I had found the perfect peice for the kitchen. The shelf displays my tchotckes, photos, and cookbooks and still leaves room for my Fiesta pitchers and my grandmother’s cooking pamphlets. Now if only it would dust itself…

Reusable shopping bag as planter

As an experiment (and because I’m trying desperately to avoid buying more plant containers) I copied something I’d seen on the internet: using a reusable shopping bag as a planter.

My mother-in-law gave me a little bag from Whole Foods with gifts inside for Christmas. It wasn’t quite big enough to take with me grocery shopping, but I knew it would come in handy someday, so I kept it for a rainy day.

Following some instructions I’ve read in various places on the internet, I took the bag and cut several small holes in the bottom.

You can’t see the holes very well in the photo, but I snipped about 10 of them, trying to space them out as well as I could.

I filled the bag with a mix of soil and compost and planted some Rainbow Chard I purchased last week.

It’s not the best looking planter, but seemed to do the trick so far. We’ll see how well the bag holds up through watering, sun exposure, etc. I’ll update in the future on how well it works.

Grandma’s teaspoons

During my mom’s last visit, she gifted me with several of my grandma’s teaspoons. There is a special feeling associated with using these spoons and something comforting about possessing an item that has been used by so many of my family members over the years. One day my daughter will stir her coffee or eat her yogurt with these spoons, and an invisible line will connect her to her great-grandmother, whom she wasn’t able to meet. Treasured objects, like these teaspoons, carry more significance than just simple function. They are a way to keep the past with us, a way to remember with fondness those who are no longer here physically, but who are always connected to us in spirit.

My favorite books about cooking that aren’t cookbooks

Comfort Me With Apples- Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone- Ruth Reichl

The Apprentice- Jacques Pepin

When French Women Cook: A Gastronomic Memoir with Over 250 Recipes- Madeleine Kamman

Kitchen Confidential- Anthony Bourdain

Eating for Beginners- Melanie Rehak

The Unprejudiced Palate- Angelo Pellegrini

The Art of Eating- MFK Fisher

Made from Scratch: A Memoir- Sandra Lee

Heat- Bill Buford

A Homemade Life- Molly Wizenberg

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef- Marco Pierre White

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