Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Little Bums

Apricots are my little darlings of the fruit world. Their velvety skin, golden with sun-kissed coral cheeks, their sweetly tart, juicy flesh, their love of being stewed and cooked, their ability to be delicious in a sweet or savoury dish, all of these things put apricots right up there with fresh figs, summertime strawberries and wild Ontario blueberries for me.

The B.C. apricots are ripe right now, and every year as soon as I find them, I make jam. I have tried variations, adding the little almond inside the pit (blanched and chopped) is one that I love, but this year, I'm in a bit of a pinch for time and I don't feel like taking a hammer and splitting pits in my kitchen (it's actually a lot more difficult than it may seem). So I experimented and came up with a lovely Apricot jam with vanilla and lemon juice. I make it the French way, macerating the fruit and sugar overnight and then boiling until the natural pectin thickens. This makes a jam that is dark golden orange coloured and lovely with it's sweetness and tartness mingling.

My French Style Apricot Jam

1 kg ripe apricots (weigh after removing the stones)
850 g sugar
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 vanilla bean

The night before you want to make the jam, quarter apricots and place in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. Add sugar, lemon or lime juice and vanilla bean, which you should split down the center and scrape the seeds out. I usually cut my vanilla bean into 3 pieces so that a few of the jars have a pretty length of vanilla bean inside. Give this all a good stir so that the sugar begins to melt a little and leave out on the counter all night.

The next morning, give another good stir and place on the stove turning heat to medium. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for at least 1/2 an hour and up to 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Sometimes I help the fruit along by gently pressing it into the side of the pot while it cooks and other times I just let it do it's thing. Either way you know it's going to taste amazing. When it looks thick and dark golden, pour it into sterilized jars and put the sterilized lids on tight, then invert the jars for a few minutes. I left my jars inverted for the day and when I flipped them back over the jam was stuck on the lids. Not a big deal, but a little funny looking and slightly annoying when the time comes to open them. Don't forget to label the jars with the date. If you keep them in the fridge I think they might last a little bit longer, but they can be stored at room temperature for at least 6 months if they've been properly sterilized. I'm not going to get into sterilizing jars, but if you've never done it, do a quick google search, I'm sure you'll find lots of tutorials. I do mine in the oven and I boil my lids. 

This jam is so heavenly spooned over a good piece of crusty baguette smeared with goat cheese. picture eating this while sitting in an apricot orchard with little goats walking around nibbling the grass.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carottes Amoureuses

I was at the farmer's market last week and bought some lovely, sweet, baby carrots. When I got them home I noticed these two babies, all curled around each other. They just look so happy that I can't actually bring myself to eat them.
Everyone should have someone who fits with them as well as these two fit together. They just don't make sense when they're apart. That is true love.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

It feels like winter here right now. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but only mildly. It actually feels like winter in the South of France, which is cold. It's gray and cloudy, very windy, and the temperature is about 12C! I know I spend a lot of time complaining about the weather, but when you live in this city, that's what you do. People talk about the weather constantly, and not in the "I don't know what to talk to you about so let's just talk about the weather" kind of way, but in a detailed and analytical kind of way. We also feel that since we live through such brutally cold and long winters that we deserve hot and sunny summers, but Mother nature doesn't always reward us accordingly.

A wordy introduction to tell you that I have been waiting impatiently for strawberries this year, another thing that many Manitobans think they deserve.  It is a late year for everything here because of a late and cool spring. But, astonishingly, the berries grew. And ripened. And my Mom and I, as has become our yearly tradition, went to pick some. 

They were small little berries, but juicy and full of flavour. I made jam, sorbet, and ate strawberries for days. I tried some new jam recipes this year, Apricot Strawberry (very good), Strawberry Vanilla (ditto), and plain Strawberry, and as always, Freezer jam. So now when winter actually comes I can open a jar and fondly remember our freezing cold and rainy summer. Maybe it will make winter seem not so bad!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quiche with Goat's Cheese and Garden Herbs

In response to my post about goats, I thought I should think of a good recipe using goat cheese. I have no shortage of goat cheese recipe ideas, but I especially love it when it's warmed in some way. This quiche is a delicious combination of creamy goat cheese, eggy custard, and gorgeous green herbs from my garden that just seem to get slipped in to everything I make lately. Please use this as a guideline and add whatever herbs you like and more or less cheese to your taste. Quiche is such a simple thing to make, I never measure, if you add 4 eggs instead of 3 or yogurt instead of milk or parsley instead of sage, it will still taste delicious!

Quiche with Goat's Cheese and Garden Herbs

1 roll frozen puff pastry
3 eggs
a nice piece of soft goat cheese (I used about the size of a golf ball)
3/4 cup milk
a good bunch of herbs, I used basil, chives, summer savoury and sage, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thaw the puff pastry either overnight in the fridge or on the counter for an hour or
two. Once thawed. place it in a pie dish with the parchment on the bottom and press
into the sides. Give it a few pricks with a fork.

Beat the eggs, then add the milk, salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the pastry, then add the cheese, breaking it up with
your fingers. Pour the egg mixture over top and put the quiche in the oven for about
45 minutes or until golden and puffed up. If you're not sure whether it's done, put a
knife in the middle and make sure it comes out clean.

Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. We even it it fridge cold the next day
for lunch. Serve with a green salad and a crisp white wine for a beautiful summer lunch.