Monday, October 29, 2007

Remember the ketchup?

I'm not sure I ever wrote about the ketchup I made - the last post I can find is about the long process of actually making it. Which turned out not to be all that long after all. Although my directions said to boil for 6-7 hours, I found that it was sufficiently thick after only 2-3 hours. I think I made around 6-7 small jars, which is plenty since we don't eat all that much ketchup.

I don't know how to describe it except that it's delicious. After Loris constantly telling me how superior his parent's homemade ketchup is, I expected it to have a very different taste from standard, store-bought or fast-food ketchup. The strange thing is that it really didn't - it tasted like ketchup. But a lot better. It didn't have that overly sugary sweetness (Loris was surprised to hear that his parent's recipe had any sugar at all). This tasted of fresh tomatoes, the tang of vinegar, the sweetness of a sprinkling of sugar, and that distinctive flavor of cloves that gives ketchup its, well, ketchupy taste.

Giardiniera with friends

A few weeks ago, Candace and Beth came over to make giardiniera. It was quite a production, with 2 large pots and one small one on the stove, and an extra burner set up for boiling jars. We had three large canning pots going at one time, and ended up with 41 jars! I think they're pretty happy with what they accomplished.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liquore di basilico

So after nagging my husband to get the recipe for liquore di basilico from his brother for weeks or probably months now, I finally looked up some recipes online. Most of them followed a similar format, although one was a bit different (it involved soaking the basil in the water rather than the liquor). Here's my take on the process so far.

The first thing I had to do was deal with the fact that you just can't get 95% grain alcohol in California. Actually, I was really grateful to find 75%, as I had heard that grain alcohol didn't exist at all here. So I did some calculations to try to take into account the dilution it already had. I used two 750 mL bottles of alcohol at 75%, which is 1500 mL, or about 1250 mL of actual alcohol. I poured it into our clear water pitcher (it's the only thing I could think of to use) and added 60 basil leaves. These immediately started turning black around the edges and getting black spots on them. Although the recipe said that the liquor would start turning green after a few hours, it didn't seem like it was happening, so I wasn't too happy.

The next morning was great, though, a lovely greenish color that's been getting more and more beautiful ever time. The leaves are really pretty black now, except a few, which are staying green for reasons that are beyond me.

The next step will be to make a simple syrup of sugar and water and use it to dilute the liquor, and then to filter out the basil leaves (or maybe vice versa), then stick this stuff in bottles and let it sit for a couple weeks. I'm hoping to have some ready for Thanksgiving. I'm very excited about this. Yay! I'll have to remember to post some photos.

October update on winter garden

My winter garden is finally shaping up. It's taking a lot more work than last year because I had my gigantic summer garden to get rid of first. It took me a whole day just to remove one zucchini plant and all the tomatoes. Now I've also removed the other zucchini, the butternut squash, dill, melon, and most of the basil. I'm drowning in basil, I have to make more pesto and freeze more so I can get the last of it out of the ground. Luckily we're still having warm days, so the peppers, eggplant, and basil are still doing ok, despite my laziness.

It's taken a lot of hard work to haul all that stuff out, turn the soil, and dig in compost. So far I've planted cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, leeks, turnips, beets, carrots, and fennel. I still want to plant swiss chard and garlic, some more beets and turnips, and possibly fava beans and/or peas. I still have 1/4 to 1/3 of the garden available, although as usual it's going to be crowded. But I'm excited and looking forward to eating all of this come winter and spring. We've already have two salads with veggies from the garden - lettuce, the last of the zucchini, and peppers.

More updates to come when I get around to doing the hard work of clearing out the last sections.

Corsican cuisine in Davis

I just cooked my dinner of Corsican cuisine on Tuesday, and it turned out amazingly well. We started with some home-made giardiniera, not Corsican at all but I guess you can't be too picky.
The first course was soupe de poissons, of course, made with only two kinds of fish (butterfish and cod). I actually made it once already, with three kinds of fish, but I don't think it made much difference to have only two. I chop up the fish and toss it into a pot with potatoes, carrots, onions, LOTS of garlic, and herbs, boil it for a while, blend it, then pass it through a food mill. I think I'm doing something wrong, though, because it never gets very smooth, and in fact stay chunky enough that it doesn't pass through the food mill very easily. My main goal is to get the bones out, which isn't always successful.

I made rouille, which was more successful this time than the last as well. Last time, I tried crushing dried red pepper and mixing it in, but it didn't turn out that well ... some bites were spicy because they had a big piece of pepper, and others were bland, with no pepper. This time, I added a bit more garlic, whipped up some aoili, then added some saffron and powdered cayenne pepper. Perfect! And stuck it in the fridge overnight, which helped it thicken. It was the perfect color, taste, and consistency. I was a happy woman. Served with sliced and toasted bread and grated ementhal cheese, it was delicious in the soup. Two of my guests had second or third helpings and finished everything.

The next course was stuffed eggplant, which I hadn't tried before, and came out really well also. I used eggplants from my garden, which I sliced length-wise and boiled. I wasn't clear on the boiling time, and I'm still not sure I picked the right amount of time. It was tough to scoop out the flesh without breaking the skin, and I mangled a few of them. I soaked the inside of some white bread in milk while this was going on, and when I had my eggplant pulp in a bowl, I drained as much liquid as I could, then I added the drained bread, garlic, basil, eggs, butter, and cheese - tomme and parmigiano. Mashed this together, stuffed it back into the eggplant skin (even the mangled ones), then fried both sides in a skillet. That was a bit weird, but it turned out just fine, and gave the top of the stuffed side a nice, golden color and texture. In the meantime, I cooked up a tomato sauce with onion, garlic, and red chili pepper, which I put in the bottom of a baking dish, set the eggplants on top, and stuck it in the oven to stay warm until dinner. I would definitely make that recipe again, it's not as hard as it sounds.

Last we had a dessert, fiadone. It's basically a brocciu cheesecake, although of course you can't find brocciu here so I used ricotta instead. Mix that with eggs and sugar and lemon or orange zest (I used lemon juice), stick it in a pie or tort dish and bake. That's it, it's easy and really delicious.

The only thing we didn't think of was a nice rose wine to go with the dinner, but white did just as well, along with a moscato for dessert. I can't help smiling when I think of that meal.