Sugar Plum Jam

Sugar Plums

Sometimes called Italian plums, or Damson, or Empress (though I believe there are differences between Damsons and Empress plums), they’re also called prune plums.

Sugar Plums, Sliced

Add sugar and freshly ground cinnamon.

Then, bring to a boil.

Stir religiously until the steam dissipates and the bubbles get big and glossy.

Then, let it set.

Sugar Plum Jam
makes about 2 cups

14-16 sugar plums, washed well and sliced
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place sliced plums in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add sugar and cinnamon.  Stir.  Then, bring to a  gentle boil.  Boil gently for about 15-18 minutes stirring very frequently.  NEVER leave the pot unattended!  (Never leave any pot unattended, actually.)  If your mixture is too hot, it could bubble over in mere seconds.  The molten lava that is jam will make an incredible mess.  And, it’s MOLTEN hot.  So, be careful.  Burns aren’t fun.

Serve warm with biscuits.  Or, let the jam sit and cool before placing in the fridge.

What a gorgeous color!

This is the texture before chilling.  It’s a bit like a thick compote. After chilling, it thickens up nicely.  Here, I’ve stored my jam very simply in a tall glass to take up minimum fridge space.  This scant 2 cups of jam remains after spooning generous quantities of our warm jam over buttered biscuits.

Devil Crabs

These are awesome.  And, they’re still a work in progress.  As you can see, the ones in back were a bit overcooked.  So, watch these carefully as you fry them.  Stale bánh mì make a pleasantly acceptable substitute for Cuban bread in a pinch.  I might even go so far as to try panko.  It’s just silly to wait for good Cuban bread to magically appear in Atlanta.  That’s very unlikely to happen any time soon.

Devil Crabs
Or, Cuban Style Deviled Crab

1/2 cup sofrito, or as desired
(Sautéed onions, tomatoes, celery, sweet red peppers)
1 cup crab meat
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup bread crumbs or as needed for shaping, made from Cuban bread

bread crumbs, made from Cuban bread, for rolling

Combine all ingredients, except crab meat.  Stir to combine.  Then, gently stir in crab meat.  Roll into croquettes or football shape.  Then, roll in bread crumbs.  Deep fry or pan fry.  Watch carefully.  The breadcrumbs tend to burn easily.

Allow to drain on uncoated parchment, the interior of a paper bag, or paper towels for about 5 minutes before serving.  Careful, they’ll still be hot!

Garden 2014 — A Look Back

The raspberry sprouts have graduated to full grown vines.  Hopefully, they’ll survive the winter.  Currently all of the raspberry and black berry bushes are still alive.  Optimistically, the Dwarf Elberta peach looks about half alive.  The Bonfire peach is on its last legs.  And, the Kadota fig tree is a giant question mark.  Sprouts shoot from the base.  But, it’s smaller this year than it was last year.   The moral of this story?  We should probably plan on planting three new fruit or nut trees next year.

The Contenders:

Paw Paw

mulberry

fig
(Panchee, Dalmatian, Conadria, or Kadota)

chestnut

pecan

And, it looks like I will probably need to replant some thyme.  Both the oregano and marjoram are crowding out my small patch of thyme.  And, I never plant enough basil.  Plant more basil!!!

Green Tea Smoothie
makes 1

1 scant cup ice
1 cup almond milk
1 heaping teaspoon matcha green tea powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- or -

1 scant cup ice
1 cup coconut milk
2-3 big pieces of mango
1 heaping teaspoon matcha green tea powder
pinch of cinnamon

Liquify in blender.  Pour into glass and enjoy.

Garden Update — The Last Of The Tomatoes

Lemon Boy Ruled This Year

Juliet, I do love thee.

Juliet Takes Second Place

And, Sun Gold Cherries Drops To Third By a Nose

But, really, they’re all winners.

Something’s eating the tomato buds… some type of caterpillar.  So, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll have tomatoes.  Pretty little buds form and disappear a few days later.  It’s so frustrating.  There are still a handful of tomatoes and cherries on the vine.  But, the end is near.

This was a great way to test olive oil, too.

Tomato Snack

tomatoes, sliced
fennel bread
olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper

Grill bread.  Slice tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and plate.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Then, nibble and dip.

Who needs a tomato sandwich?

Roasted Sunchokes

Quick To Shrivel

By the time the third sunchoke hit the plate, they’d shriveled even more.

Love them or hate them?  Neither, but, they’re tasty.  And, I’d make them again.  Next time, I’d like to try some very young ones.  These are more like fussy teens.

So, what is a Jerusalum artichoke?  It’s the root of a species of native Eastern American sunflower.  And, it can also be found in Eastern Canada.  It’s known by many names.  To name a few, it’s commonly called a sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, and more.

Raw, the texture is hard and crisp.  It’s sort of like a cross between a super crisp jicama and a water chestnut with a touch something that is savory and a barely there nutty flavor.  Roasted, the texture is a bit like other moist root vegetables.  Similar to a roasted carrot or parsnip, only the dark golden roasted edges remain crisp.  The inside is moist and tender.  The flavor is reminiscent of a moist, sweet yukon gold potato crossed with a delicate touch of artichoke.  But, honestly, if I’m in the mood for something that tastes like artichoke without the fuss, I’d go for cardoons.  When it comes to vegetables, cardoons rock.

This root vegetable has a dark side, though.  So, I’ll offer fair warning.  While researching the time to roast my sunchokes.  I came across this article on Bon Appétit’s website.  Would you like the CliffsNotes version?  They’re also known as the “Fartichoke”.  And, they might cause an upset stomach, gas, and a laxative-like effect.  If you’re sensitive to fruits high in fructose like the apple.  You might want to try a small amount of roasted sunchoke to see how your body deals with the hard to digest starches.

For the ladies out there, they’re iron content is quite high.  In a 100 gram serving (That’s 3.5 ounces or a generous side dish serving), they have 3.4 mg of iron.That’s about triple of the amount of iron as a serving of broccoli.  And, they’re rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin C and a few of the Bs.

They do darken a little bit like a potato on cut edges.  But, they’re much easier to manage.  And, you have significantly longer handling time before it becomes an issue.

Roasted Sunchokes
serves 4-6
(Small servings are best.  Read above.)

1 lb sunchokes, well-washed
olive oil
fine sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

If your sunchokes are small and young, quarter them.  If they’re larger, cut them into wedge shapes.  Toss in olive oil.  Then, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Toss to redistribute the olive oil.  Then, raise the temperature to 425 and continue to roast until tender in the center and gold brown on the edges.  That’s about another 30-45 minutes.  Toss in roasting pan at about the 45 minute mark, too.

Serve small portions with protein and veggies of your choice.

For what it’s worth, they didn’t bother my stomach at all.

Peach Jam

These peaches were so super ripe that I didn’t even bother to remove the skins.  After the 10-15 minute boil, the skins almost melted away completely.  And, the tiny bits of skin that remained were fine in the finished product.

Peach Jam
makes 1 large jar

4-5 peaches, roughly cut
2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine roughly cut peaches, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized sauce pan over moderate heat.  As needed, stir gently and allow to boil for about 10-15 minutes.  When its done, the jam will be thick and syrupy.  Let cool.  Then, pour into a large jar or bowl and refrigerate.

Spoon onto biscuits, toast, cake… or ice cream.

The skins also added a gorgeous color to this jam.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake

We’ve spent the last month eating one crate of barely ripe peaches.  While still under ripe, we carefully washed and dried each peach.  We placed one layer of peaches back in the crate.  And, we covered them lightly with a flour sack towel.  The remaining peaches were layered carefully on a wide platter and covered with another linen towel.  Then we waited patiently.  Two to three days later, we had over two dozen perfectly ripe peaches.  We covered the crate with a  second towel and placed the crate in the fridge.

The peaches on the platter were eaten over the course of that week. At the end of that week, the remainder of those super-ripe peaches made a small batch of jam.  (That’ll be posted on Friday.)

The following week we snacked on the fridge peaches.  Each day we’d take out one or two peaches and set them on the counter for later in the day.  The leftovers of that week went into this cake.  As you can see above and below,  these peaches are so perfectly ripe that the lightest touch can tear the skin from the flesh.

Peach Upside Down Cake
makes one 8×8 inch dish
(see note)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
4-5 peaches, halved

2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour 4 Tablespoons of melted butter into baking dish.  Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over butter.  Place haled peaches on top.  Space evenly.  Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

Combine oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Add buttermilk.  Stir.  Gently stir in flour mixture until combined.  Pour over peaches.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for approximately 50-55 minutes or until cake is set.

Serve immediately.
If desired, top with ice cream and a touch of whipped cream.

Note:

The 8×8 inch baking dish was almost too small.  Luckily, I’d placed the baking dish on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Peach juice overload around the edges and made the dish sticky.  Use a slightly bigger dish next time.

Thai Iced Tea

If you’d like to make a version of Thai iced tea without Number One Brand tea or Pantai tea (that’s the one with the yellow and blue label), it’s quite easy.  It just won’t have the questionable food coloring.  And, in my book, that’s a plus not a minus.

For this tea, I’d suggest using double the amount of tea leaves that you normally use.  A strong tea is the key to this recipe.  The bitterness of the strong tea works to balance the sweetness of the condensed milk and coconut milk.

Thai Iced Tea
makes 3-4

1 pot very strong tea
(green or black tea)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sweetened condensed milk
coconut milk

Bring water to a boil.  Remove the kettle from the heat and add vanilla extract and tea leaves to your taste.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Strain or press tea.  Chill.  When tea has completely cooled, fill hurricane glasses with ice.  Then, fill glass with tea allowing enough room for adding milk to your taste.  Pour milk on top.  Pop in a straw.  Enjoy!

Sweet Coconut Milk

1 – 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

In a small pitcher, combine coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk.  Stir until combined.  Chill.  This will make enough sweet milk for several pots of tea.  This milk will be very, very sweet.  If you’d like less sweetness , add sweetened condensed milk by the spoon and sweeten to your taste.

Squash Blossoms

Male Squash Blossoms

These beautiful blossoms were jam-packed into a plastic wrapped container and slightly wilted.  But, they weren’t bruised.  (If they’re bruised, they won’t perk up as prettily.)  And, for about $2 they were easily worth the minimal investment of time and effort.

The blossoms on top had the most damage.  But, after cutting a tiny piece off of each stem, I carefully washed them in cool water.  Then, ran fresh water into another bowl.  Then, placed the blossoms in the fresh water and let them sit peacefully for about 30 minutes.  They perked up quite nicely.

They’re not overly temperamental or fragile.  They’re just about as resilient (maybe even more so) than most lettuces.

The stems are the absolute definition of bright and fresh flavor with a crisp bite.  I think the stems are even tastier than the blossom itself.

Squash Blossom Omelette
makes 1

6 squash blossoms, washed well
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon milk or water
1 Tablespoon of butter, or as desired
1 Tablespoon dill, minced
1 Tablespoon chives, cut into tiny rings
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the stems into small pieces.  Then, cut blossoms in half.  Sauté stem pieces in butter.  Add dill, chives, black pepper and salt to taste.  Remove from the pan.  Gently sauté blossom pieces.  Remove from the pan.  Prepare omelet.  Before folding the omelette, evenly spread stem pieces and squash blossom pieces down the center.  Then, fold and plate omelette.

Top with chopped dill or chives, if desired.

I was amazed by the quantity of blossoms in the package.  There were close to two dozen blossoms.  I gently shook the leftover blossoms dry and layered them carefully in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap.  They remained fresh, crisp and perky for over a week.

Malaysian Chicken Curry — Kari Ayam

Candlenut = Kukui Nut

Long ago in Hawaii, the oil of the candle nut was used to make light.  Also, the nuts were strung together in a way that each burning nut would measure the passing time.  It would take roughly 15 minutes to burn from one nut to the next.  In Hawaii, kukui nuts are used in a variety of ceremonies including wedding ceremonies.  The nuts represent light.  And, the two lights of two spirits become one.  The kukui is also used as a symbol of enlightenment, protection and peace.  With all of this rich symbolism, it’s obvious why it’s such a popular jewelry bead.  In its shell, the nut is buffed and polished and made into leis, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets.  The raw shelled candlenut (or kukui nut) is mildly toxic.  It can be used as a laxative or purgative.  So, if you’re not looking for a laxative, don’t eat it raw.

If it’s toxic, why does it appear in the foods of Hawaii, Malaysia, Java, Tonga, and The Philippines?  Well, this oily nut also adds a hint of bitterness, a silky richness, and that little something special to stewed dishes.  It also acts as a thickening agent.

Kari Ayam
serves 3-4

5-6 red chillies, cut in half and seeded
1 small sweet red pepper, quartered and seeded
4 red shallots, roughly chopped
4-6 garlic cloves
4-5 candlenuts (or kukui nut)
(Substitute brazil nuts or macadamia nuts, if needed)
1 inch fresh turmeric, sliced
1 inch ginger, sliced
2 TBSP macadamia nut oil (or coconut oil)
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped in half lengthwise
1 inch galangal, roughly chopped
4 cups coconut milk
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp grated nutmeg
4-5 cloves
1-2 star anise
1 tsp Belacan shrimp paste, roasted and crushed
1 tsp salt
⅓ cup brown sugar or palm sugar
3 chicken breast, sliced into thin pieces
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
fried shallots, to garnish, if desired

Place red chili peppers, sweet red pepper, shallots, garlic, candlenuts, turmeric, ginger, and oil.  Process to a smooth paste.  Place paste in heated dutch oven with 1-2 Tablespoons macadamia oil.  Fry until aromatic.  Add lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, shrimp paste, salt, sugar, and potatoes.  Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add sliced chicken breast pieces.  Simmer for another 10-12 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked, yet tender.

Garnish with fried shallots, if desired.