Monthly Archives: November 2012

Blackberry and brown sugar loaf

November 10, 2012

Blackberry and brown sugar loaf

Page 245, Henry

Happy birthday, dearest Gypsy love! That is what I hoped this teatime cake would shout when I took it to Gypsy’s birthday brunch this morning. There was such amazing Plenty, as usual! Kitty Mao brought a divine bacon and egg pie that you should go make right now ( or the next time you would like eggs and bacon wrapped in flaky puff pastry and magically transformed into divinity). You can find the recipe here http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Classic-Bacon-Egg-Pie if you are not an avid subscriber to Saveur like I am.  There were also piles of bacon and hotcakes and cinnamon rolls and hashbrowns with kale and garlic (hells yes, I am so stealing that idea!) and all manner of other deliciousness. And coffee and mimosas, of course. What is brunch without coffee and mimosas?

So we ate and laughed and held babies and petted puppies and generally enjoyed this fantastic weather (70 degrees and sunny in November – yes, please!) together as we celebrated.

 

 

 

Blackberry and brown sugar loaf

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 and 1/4 cup light-brown sugar

2 large eggs,beaten until frothy

2 heaped tbsp sour cream

1 tbsp grated lemon zest

pinch of ground cinnamon

2 cups plain flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1 and 2/3 cup blackberries (I used a blackberry/raspberry combo)

confectioners sugar for dusting 

Beat the butter till light with a hand-held beater, then add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time and beat until creamy. Turn the speed down low and add the sour cream, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour. Beat until the mixture just comes together. Sift the baking powder over the top, sprinkle on the blackberries, and gently fold into the mixture, breaking them up as little as possible. Spoon the batter into a buttered loaf tin measuring (9x5in), smooth the top and bake in an oven preheated to 325°F until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then run a knife round the edge and turn it out on to a wire rack. Turn the right way up and leave to cool completely. Sift a light dusting of icing sugar over the top before serving.

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Spicy Moroccan carrot salad AND Quinoa salad with persian lime

November 9, 2012

Spicy Moroccan carrot salad AND Quinoa salad with persian lime

Page 14 and 245, Ottolenghi

I am so grateful for this year of Plenty. My life has been full of friends, love, joy, and really delicious food. My dear HD is in town for a bit between leaving her job in Illinois and heading to new and exciting adventures in Washington state. We spent part of the unseasonably warm November evening outside – she trimmed back all of the raspberry bushes and put the garden to bed for the year while I took a quick walk down the street to deliver squash cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting to some friends/neighbors who just had a gorgeous new baby this week. On the walk, I was struck by how much the landscape has changed in the last week or so. All of the leaves are well and truly fallen and my favorite tree by the creek is back to it’s naked splendor for the winter. The creek itself had some maintenance recently – the city thinned the trees that line its bank – and my initial sadness transitioned quickly to amazement as I saw the way light now falls on the creek, reflecting the remaining trees in the water. It was a lovely way to end a very long and difficult work week, to be able to marvel at the changing world around me as I headed home to make dinner for HD and my lovely wife to celebrate all of the transitions in our worlds.

And what a dinner it was! Two of the Ottolenghi salad recipes that I have been drooling over for months in one evening. There was a pretty intense debate about which of the two was our favorite – I think that I was outvoted by HD and the missus who both *really* liked the carrot salad, while my clear choice was the quinoa salad (really more of a pilaf in my opinion, but delicious no matter what the name!).

Quinoa is another of those foods that B did not enter this year with much affection for, but that she publicly declared her love for after this dish.  The salad is a mixture of basmati and wild rice (I used red rice left over from another recipe to replace the wild rice) along with the quinoa. To the grains, Ottolenghi adds roasted sweet potato and fried garlic slices/herbs, which add softness and crunch. The major flavor (hence the name) is supposed to come from dried Persian lime that has been ground into a powder. Alas, dried Persian limes were not to be found in our fair hamlet, HOWEVER in my searching I came across finger limes! And they are AMAZING. They are sometimes called the caviar of citrus fruit, because their translucent, greenish-white or pinkish vesicles  are round and firm, and pop on the tongue like caviar, releasing a flavor that combines lemon and lime with green and herbaceous notes (or so says the NYTimes- and I happen to agree). So rather than dried persian lime powder, the salad was full of these fabulous tiny globes of limey flavor – and it was a major win for a replacement. FIND these and use them immediately if you know what is good for you. (I found them at the Hive, by the way)

Spicy Moroccan carrot salad

2 pounds carrots

1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra to finish

1 onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 serrano chile, finely chopped (and seeded, if you want less heat)

1 green onion, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon

Salt

2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra to garnish

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, chilled

1. Peel the carrots and cut them, depending on their size, into cylinders or semicircles one-half-inch thick; all the pieces should end up roughly the same size. Place in a large saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until tender but still crunchy, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and leave to dry out.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion over medium heat until soft and slightly brown, about 12 minutes. Add the cooked carrots to the onion, followed by the sugar, garlic, chile, onion, cloves, ground ginger, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, vinegar and preserved lemon.

3. Remove from the heat. Season liberally with salt, stir well and leave to cool.

4. Before serving, stir in the cilantro, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve

in individual bowls with a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of oil and a garnish of the extra cilantro

Quinoa salad with persian lime

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
7 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 cup wild rice blend
1 cup quinoa
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tbs. sliced fresh sage leaves
3 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh oregano
6 oz. crumbled feta
4 green onions (green parts only), thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
6 Tbs. sliced fresh mint
2 Tbs. ground dried Persian lime
1 tsp. lemon juice

1 | Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; spread sweet potatoes on baking sheet. Drizzle with 31/2 Tbs. oil; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.

2 | Cook rice blend according to package directions; drain. Cook quinoa in pot of boiling salted water; drain. Transfer rice and quinoa to large mixing bowl.

3 | Heat remaining 31/2 Tbs. oil in small skillet over medium heat. Fry garlic slices in oil 30 seconds. Add sage and oregano, and stir-fry 1 minute. Pour oil and herbs over grain mixture. Add remaining ingredients and sweet potatoes, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and garnish with green onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Roasted squash with sweet spices, lime, and green chile plus Simple roast chicken with herbs

November 7, 2012

Roasted squash with sweet spices, lime, and green chile

Page 65, Ottolenghi

Simple roast chicken with herbs

Page 16, Henry

My friend Julia came over for a post-election celebration dinner of Plenty. Given the abundance of squash still in our larder, and Julia’s hearty “yes!” when I asked her if she was a squash fan meant that the last of the Ottolenghi squash recipes was pressed into service for our dinner. The preparation for this one was slightly involved, but the outcome was worth it. The squash is roasted with cardamom and allspice – not a combination I would have dreamt up, but perfectly delicious in it’s sweetness. A sweetness that was totally offset by the limes, chiles and the tahini sauce that is drizzled over the squash once roasted.  Julia good naturedly submitted to both my pre-meal photo-taking AND my lengthy quizzing on where *exactly* the squash dish would fall in a ranking of vegetable side dishes (above cauliflower and way below mashed potatoes, by the way). 

The squash was a lovely complement to the roast chicken that I made from the Henry version of Plenty. There really is nothing like a simple roast chicken – this one stuffed with parsley, sage, oregano, and apple slices – to make you feel hungry, happy, and cared for, according to Diana Henry’s recipe. And she is so right. Julia and I both really needed to feel happy, hungry AND cared for after the last few weeks – et voila!

 
 
Roasted squash with sweet spices, lime, and green chile
 
2 limes
Salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 big butternut squash
1 tablespoon cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 ½ tbsps tahini
1 tablespoon lime juice (or more to taste)
1 green chile (I used jalapeno), sliced thin
2/3 cup cilantro
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  
For the limes: trim off the tops and bottoms of the limes with a paring knife. Now with the limes standing stable on a cutting board, use your knife to cut down the sides, slicing off the skin and the white pith. Quarter the naked limes, and then cut into very thin slices. Place these slices in a bowl, add a 1-tablespoon drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
For the butternut squash: Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Now, cut the squash into slices – about ½ inch thick. Lay them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet .
Mix together the cardamom and allspice in a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and stir. Brush this spiced oil over the squash. Season the squash with salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until tender, and then let cool.
Whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lime juice, and two tablespoons of water. Season to taste with salt. (The sauce will be thick, but you want to be able to drizzle it over the squash, so add more lime juice or water to taste to thin it out if necessary.)
Arrange the squash on a serving platter. Drizzle with the yogurt-tahini sauce. Spoon the lime slices and their juice evenly over top. Scatter the chile slices. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

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Parsnip dumplings in broth – otherwise known as Election night plenty!

November 6, 2012

Parsnip dumplings in broth

Page 28, Ottolenghi

After donating money, volunteering for get out the vote efforts, and worrying like crazy, there was nothing left to do but cook. There was so much riding on this election for me – personally and professionally – and for the country. And, oh my dear friends, what a sea change we saw tonight! So many wins for forward movement – 20 female senators, no new justice center in our county, the defeat of two major rape apologists, an entirely female delegation from New Hampshire, openly gay and trans politicians elected, the country’s first openly gay Senator-elect, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, same-sex marriage added in three states, the retention of the Iowa judges that voted for same-sex marriage here, and PRESIDENT OBAMA!  A sea change, I say. And in the face of ridiculous amounts of opposition and campaigns funded by right-wing hate-mongering zealots. Hey haters, we say NO! to you and YES! to social justice. It brings to mind one of my favorite Marge Piercy poems, one that has gotten me through many a rough day fighting for women’s rights to safety and access to justice, and one that seems particularly appropriate on this election night as my heart explodes with joy and relief that each day we really do mean one more. Ten million, your own country, my friends.

*******************************************
The Low Road

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

*******************************************

And in the midst of the waiting, and the aftermath of a cold afternoon of door knocking to help make sure that voters made it to the polls, I did what I often do when worried or stressed or joyful or expectant, or well, anything else. I cooked. And in a funny twist, I made one of the few losing dishes that I have found in Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The thought of parsnip dumplings floating in a bowl of home-made broth was an irresistible pull on such a cold and uncertain night. And it was…. okay. The process of cooking was the real win, soothing my heart as I listened to pundits on the radio tell me that it would be too close to call, that we faced a loss, that money and corporations might win out this time.

Chope the vegetables, make the broth, strain it carefully, make the dough for dumplings, chill it well, form them and drop into boiling water, watch for them to rise to the top, put them in beautiful bowls and ladle hot broth with carrots over them. How can that go wrong? And really? It didn’t. The broth was delicious, the dumplings underwhelming, but the warmth and intention and love that went into the dish – channeled from my hope (yes, 4 years later and I am still filled with hope) saved it. And nourished us for the waiting and the watching and the eventual joy and celebration as I was able to “say We, and know who you mean, and each day you mean one more.”.

Broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut in slices
5 celery stalks, cut in chunks
1 large onion, quartered
1 small celeriac, peeled and quartered
7 cloves of garlic
5 thyme sprigs
2 small bunches of parsley, plus some for garnish
10 black peppercorns, whole
3 bay leaves
8 prunes
salt and pepper

Dumplings
½ pound white sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ cups peeled and diced parsnips
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup self rising flour (see note)
1/3 cup semolina
1 egg
salt and pepper

Begin the preparation for the broth first. It can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add all the vegetables and garlic, sauté until the vegetables color slightly. Add the herbs, spices, prunes, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for 1 ½ hours, adding liquid as needed to maintain a water level that just covers the vegetables. Strain the broth through a sieve into a clean bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Reserve any of the vegetables you would like to add to the soup.

For the dumplings, boil the potato, parsnips, and garlic in salted water. Cook until the potato and parsnips are soft, drain well. In the same pot you used for the vegetables, melt butter and add the vegetables back into the pot. Cook on medium for a few minutes to dry out the vegetables. While still hot, mash the vegetables, add flour, semolina, egg, salt and pepper until all the ingredients are incorporated. Chill the mixture for 30 minutes.

When you are ready to cook the dumplings, reheat the broth. In a separate pot bring salted water to a light simmer. Use a teaspoon to spoon out the dumpling mixture into the water. The dumplings will sink to the bottom. When they rise and begin to float at the top, cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and place in the serving bowls.

To serve, ladle hot broth into bowls. Add any vegetables you have reserved from the broth. Garnish with parsley.

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Grape leaf, herb, and yogurt pie

November 4, 2012

Grape leaf, herb, and yogurt pie

Page 158, Ottolenghi

 

Once again,  I found a way to use kale to make an Ottolenghi dish. This is crucial because we have SO. MUCH. KALE. I am not complaining, mind you. The day that the kale finally really and truly freezes and is no longer a garden staple is a day of mourning around here. Much like today’s switch to daylight saving time. As a summer-loving sun worshipper of a girl, this is one of the toughest days of the year for me. It is 5:13 and fully dark outside as I write. That deserves national mourning, in my opinion. On the flip side, the day that we spring forward is a celebratory holiday (check out my post about that here https://theyearofplenty.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/turkish-lamb-kofta-with-cherries-and-yogurt/ ) and without one, I suppose we cannot have the other. Oh, tricky wheel of life ( or government manipulated illusion of time, whichever).

There is still plenty to celebrate around here despite the darkening days and the sudden end of daylight at/or before 5:00 P.M.  And a garden full of kale is but one!

Last week when I made the stuffed cabbage recipe from Plenty with the giant kale leaves that I blanched, both B and I noted that the kale was very similar to the texture of grape leaves, which sent me directly to the index to look up Ottolenghi’s one and only recipe featuring grape leaves.  While he suggests it as a substantial snack or a light starter, I chose to pair it with a homemade rice pilaf  – a version based partly on the filling from those self-same cabbage rolls that inspired me to try this recipe, and partly on a NYTimes recipe found here http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/health/nutrition/rice-pilaf-with-carrots-and-parsley.html that uses carrots and parsley.

The grape leaf (kale) pie was DELICIOUS, and the rice pilaf made a perfect pairing. B paid it a high compliment ( I think) by saying that it tasted just like Rice-a-Roni. Other than substituting kale for grape leaves and using dry roasted almonds instead of pind nuts, the only other tweak to the recipe is that , as always, you should start with half the amount of oil that Ottolenghi recommends. He is an oil whore, and about 1/2 of what he calls for is right in just about every dish I have made.

This tastes like a lemony version of dolmas in some ways – despite the fact that there is no rice actually in the pie. It is the abundance of fresh herbs (including tarragon fresh from Gypsy’s garden!), the greek yogurt, and the lemon zest and juice that make it irresistably delicious. Try this right away, friends. You will not be sorry!

 

Grape leaf, herb, and yogurt pie
Ingredients
  • 20 to 25 grape leaves (fresh or from a jar)
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve
  • 2 1/2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped dill
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rice flour ( I substituted cake flour after googling to find a replacement)
  • 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the grape leaves in a shallow bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Then remove the leaves from the water and dry them well with a tea towel. Use scissors to trim off and discard the bit of hard stalk at the base of each leaf.

2. Sauté the shallots in 1 tablespoon of the oil for about 8 minutes, or until light brown. Leave to cool down.

3. Take a round and shallow ovenproof dish that is roughly 8 inches in diameter, and cover its bottom and sides with grape leaves, slightly overlapping them and allowing the leaves to hang over the rim of the dish. Mix the melted butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; use about two-thirds of this to generously brush the leaves lining the dish.

4. Mix together in a bowl the shallots, yogurt, pine nuts, chopped herbs and lemon zest and juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the rice flour and mix well until you get a homogenous paste. Spread this paste evenly in the baking dish.

5. Fold the overhanging grape leaves back over the top of the filling so they cover the edges, then cover the filling completely with the remaining grape leaves. Brush with the rest of the butter and oil mix. Finally, scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the leaves crisp up and the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warmish or at room temperature, with a dollop of fresh yogurt.

 

 

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(not really) Tamara’s ratatouille

November 2, 2012

Tamara’s ratatouille

Page 74, Ottolenghi

Celebrations deserve Plenty! And tonight’s celebration was both a birthday and anniversary dinner for our dear friends, Gnomes and the Pirate. I had been planning an elaborate making of a dinner FULL of vegetables and goodness, so Ottolenghi’s ratatouille seemed like the perfect recipe to tackle. At the end of a long work week that I was BEYOND ready to bid adieu to, I thought I would be done with work at 4:00 and could shop and chop to prepare. As with many things in life, this did not go exactly as hoped. 5:00 P.M. found me still on a work call, unshowered, and without the ingredients I still needed to make Tamara’s ratatouille. In my world, Plenty often also involves lots of last minute improvisation, and this version of Plenty has to be called (not really) Tamara’s ratatouille. Thankfully, sometimes improvisation leads to even better results than anything that could have been planned – and such was the case with the recipe (using the term loosely).

So, a quick text to say we would be a bit later than I had originally planned, and a scan of our fridge to find what I had to work with and B and I were off! She sous-chefed for me, and soon the kitchen was delicious smelling and we were tasting bits of this and that and getting pretty excited about how the substitutions were coming together. I will put the *actual* recipe below, but you all should know that we had none of the red pepper, zucchini, or eggplant. We also had no french beans, but happened to have some frozen green beans left over from a recent run at green bean casserole to soothe our childhood cravings. Instead of the missing vegetables, we had cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, mushrooms, and some fresh oregano. So I just substituted those things for what was missing and added them to the parsnips, winter squash, potatoand garden tomatoes that *were* actually in the recipe. It was a huge hit! The flavors in Ottolenghi’s sauce were spot on – and would be with ANY combination of vegetables you have at hand. And? the fact that ratatouille is essentially overcooked vegetables meant that there was time to shower while they simmered for the first 30 minutes and then to throw together a salad with romaine and Jaime’s fabulous pears while they baked for the last 30 minutes. A perfect dish if you need both the room for improvisation and self-preparation before a lovely evening with friends.

It transported perfectly in my favorite Catherine Holm baking dish (left to me by my Mimi and one of my treasured pieces) and was joined by a fantastic baked feta/tomato/olive dish that the Pirate made, the thrown-together salad, some grated fresh parmesan, and a crusty loaf of bread to make a totally warm and tasty celebration of plenty. Top it off with some fabulous red wine, sea salt brownies (worthy of their own post which I think you can find here http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/08/my-favorite-brownies/ ) and the company of wonderful friends, and it was a perfect Friday night.

Serves 4
7 tbsp sunflower oil 
2 small onions, cut into 1 1/4 inch dice
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 fresh green chili, thinly sliced (I used a jalapeno) 
2 small red peppers, cut into a 1 1/2 inch dice
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into a 1 1/4 inch dice
1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into a 1 1/4 inch dice
1 cup french beans, trimmed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 1/4 inch dice
1/2 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 1/4 inch dice
1 small potato, peeled and cut into a 1 1/4 inch dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and black pepper
1 cup water
chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)
 
Pour two-thirds of the oil into a large heavy casserole dish or a pot and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the garlic, chili and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the squash and parsnip and continue frying for 5 minutes. 
Using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables out of the pot and into a medium bowl, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Top this up with remaining oil. Add the French beans, zucchini and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour in the water. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Finally, preheat the oven to 400 F. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the vegetables from the pot and into a large, deep roasting pan to make a layer about 1 1/4 inches thick. Pour the liquid over the vegetables and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. At this point all the vegetables should be very soft and most of the liquid evaporated. Garnish with cilantro, if you like, and serve.

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Extra plenty! Pear jam style.

October 31, 2012

Pear Jam

This is the 2nd year that Jaime has brought me a whole flat of fresh pears from her tree and I have been over-joyed to be able to make fresh pear jam. The pears are so perfectly sweet that I stuck with an incredibly simple jam recipe that is basically pears and sugar, so that the flavor of the pears really shines. Making jam and canning is one of the activities that centers me, makes me breathe deeply, and brings me back to gratefulness. My grandmother and mother before me both made relish and pickles, but I really came to canning and jam making on my own when I lived in my little apartment in Davenport. I remember clearly the first time I helped my friends at the R.I. Catholic Worker House can tomatoes and saw how easy it was to do hot-water bath canning, and how I could do that with the plentiful tomatoes growing in Laurette and my garden that summer. The success of that experience led to my first experimentation with blueberry jam the next summer, just after my dear Laurette had died suddenly and unexpectedly and left me reeling from my first real experience of grieving someone that dear to me. I will always equate jam making and canning with healing and creating plenty in a world that suddenly felt confusing and deeply transient. Nowadays, canning comes from a much more joyful place, but I am equally grateful each time to find myself surrounded by fresh produce, steam, and hot jars – ready to transform something transitory and short lived (like a tomato harvest or a flat of peaches or pears – thanks, Jaime!) into something that will stand ready in beautiful clear jars to feed me and those that I love over the long term.

Countryside Pear Jam

The absolute simplicity of this four-ingredient countryside pear jam recipe is only a side benefit. The star of this jam is the sparkling clear flavor of fresh pears, accented with just the tiniest dusting of cinnamon and cloves. These pear preserves are a classical, French confiture; they require no pectin, only sugar, to thicken into a hearty confection.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 6 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups chopped, peeled pears
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preparation:

How to make countryside pear preserves:

Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan and bring them to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat slightly, and simmer the jam, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Remove the pear jam from the heat and skim off the foam with a clean spoon. Ladle the jam into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 to 11 minutes.

Allow the jar to cool on a clean towel and check the seals before storing the jam in a cool, dark place.

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