Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lime Jelly

2013 Update: Cooked for a much shorter time, looks and tastes more like true lime.

Limes are by far my favorite citrus. I use lemons more often, as I have a tree in the garden, but limes always feel like a treat.  Even as a child, lime was my favorite Sweet Tart or lollipop flavor. When people talk about their love for meyer lemons, and many talk about that love, I think of limes. 

So, when Lisa and I emailed about a January canning project a few days after Mariquita offered limes as an addition to their Mystery Boxes, I was determined to can limes. A search of both the internet and my stash of canning books seemed to steer me towards marmalade. But, to be honest, although I like marmalade, I wanted something less bitter and more, well, lime. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted lime jelly. 
More googling came up with many gelatin based desserts and surprisingly few jelly recipes. Expanding my search to lemon gave me more results and a lot of recipes for honey-lemon-jelly. That sounded lovely, but it also seemed that honey would mask the lime flavor I was after. It was clearly time to experiment.

First off: squeeze the limes. We ended up with about 6 cups of juice from 10 pounds of limes. We used the extra cup to make lime curd.  

5 cups lime juice
3 1/2 cups water
7 1/2 cups sugar
2 (3 ounce) envelopes liquid pectin

Squeeze limes and measure 5 cups of juice into a saucepan. Add water and sugar and bring to a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. Add the liquid pectin and allow to boil for 10 more minutes. 
Funnel the jelly into jars and process for five minutes in a boiling water canner.

Lime Curd

Turns out that if you don't add food coloring, your lime jelly looks kind of like apple juice.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cooking from the Books With K: Because of Winn Dixie

 "All I had wanted to do was purchase a box of macaroni & cheese, some white rice and two tomatoes.  But then, I heard the store manager yelling, "Who let that dog in?  Who let that dirty dog in?" I couldn't see anything but rolling vegetables and Winn-Dixie employees waving their arms, until a big, ugly  dog skidded to a stop right in front of me and smiled.  What was a lonely 10 year old to do?  I told the store manager he was my dog and that his name was Winn-Dixie.  So I don't think very fast .. so what if the store's name is Winn-Dixie.  Anyway, I yelled "Here, boy!  Here, Winn-Dixie!"  And what was a stray dog to do?  He obediently came to me and smiled so hard that he sneezed.  It was love at first sight. Now, I, India Opal Buloni, of Naomi Florida need to convince my preacher Dad that we need a dog.  After all, my Mom isn't around, and I need company.  And we all know a dog can change your life, can't it?"

We are back after a Cooking from the Books holiday hiatus, with mac-n-cheese for a school potluck inspired by Because of Winn Dixie, a book that K's 4th grade teacher read out loud to the class earlier this year. 

From K: "It is about a girl who finds a dog at a supermarket, called Winn Dixie. The girl takes the dog home and the story is about the girl and the dog, who she names Winn  Dixie. The dog goes everywhere with the girl. Everywhere. The girl has red hair and is 10 and he name in India Opal Bologna (sp), like the lunch meat. The librarian gives the girl lozenges that taste like strawberry, root beer and sorrow. There is a party and Winn Dixie goes missing but the girl and her dad find her."

"I liked the book. I usually like the books that Jeff, my teacher, reads to the class. It was the first one we heard this school year.  I had read it before and liked it then too. My favorite thing is that the girl is a red head like me. Usually stories with redheads are good stories. There is no mom in the book. Why are there so often not moms in books or movies?"

Mac N Cheese
Based on a recipe K learned in her Sprouts Cooking Class
Note: Oddly, I have never made baked mac-n-cheese before, probably because it has only been in the past six months that K has been willing to eat it. Although everyone raves about the Martha Stewart version, K voted for the one she learned at Flour & Water so that is what we made.

2 oz  butter
2 oz flour
1 qt  milk
1 pound cheddar cheese (grated) (As always grating is an excellent job for kids)
2 T kosher salt
1 T black pepper
2 boxes pasta, cooked (In class they made pasta, at home we used whole wheat cause K likes it)
2 cups chopped romanesco broccoli, blanched (optional, but we had some from our Mystery Box)
1 cup of breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
Melt butter and add flour, whisk aggressively to combine and cook until golden. Add milk and whisk until it boils.  Make sure to scrap bottom with rubber spatula so the sauce doesn't burn.  Add cheese, salt and pepper and continue to whisk until all of the cheese is melted. 
Add the cooked pasta to your cheese sauce sauce and mix well.  Pour pasta and sauce into a greased 9x12 baking dish (or two smaller pans). Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 30-45 minutes or until breadcrumbs are toasted.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wine Samples

I sometimes get wine samples. Often these are specifically sent for some sort of online event, like the twitter tastings, but occasionally they simply arrive for tasting at my leisure. I do my best to taste them promptly, but, like others ,I sometimes fall behind, and, perhaps not like others, start to lose far too much of my dining room floor space to bottles. If I had better storage this would not be as much of an issue, but in an urban apartment, space is at a premium. 

The samples though, do need to be tasted. So rather than tasting them alone, I asked a few friends over to taste with me. I told them ahead of time that we would be tasting random samples and that they could be wonderful or awful or most likely, something in between. The food: burgers, inspired by a bottle of Cheeseburger Red. 
To drink: 4 bottles of red and a sparkling rosé to start. We all tasted each bottle and wrote a short note. Everyone could then have more of their favorite or, if we didn't like any of them, we could open something else. The group that joined me is both understanding (read: willing to humor me on this) and wine drinkers, but not experts.

I'll post the tasting notes here because the contrast in opinions is kind of fun to see. Not all of the comments are positive and I thought about not posting some of the more negative ones, but instead, they appear, as transcribed from the wine-stained, hand-written note pages. The comments are in the same order for each wine, person #1 is comment #1 for each wine, etc.

Gloria Ferrrer 07 Brut rosé:
"Crisp. Easy to deal with (inoffensive) bubbles. Very drinkable, would have more than 1 glass."
"Salmon colored. Full and rich with many small bubbles."
"My favorite."
"Dry, light: banana citrus as it warms, peppery melon."
Cheeseburger Red: Blend: 28% Petite Sirah, 44% Barbera, 28% Syrah.
"Not bad"
"Label unappetizing. Good with potato chips."
"Sweet, smooth, not edgy. Paired well with the burger. Better than I expected."
"Flintstones vitamins."
"Sharp, peppery, hot chocolate."

Ridgeline 05 Cabernet Sauvignon (Magnum)
"Fave thus far for the reds."
"Super tanniny, very dry. Good with olives."
"Tanniny. Just dull."
"Berries. Dry finish. Fruity apple."

Folie a Deux 09 Amador Zinfandel
"Like. Tastes good with the burger"
"Sweeter than I normally like but easy to drink."
"Not for me. Bad aftertaste."
"Roasted red pepper, pesto, cranberry."

Chateau Moulinet-Lasserre 03 Pomerol
"Oaky, generic."
"Very light."
"My favorite of the reds."
"Strawberries, leather, brown sugar on finish."

Saturday, January 7, 2012


This post is really for my mother, who always asks for details on what I eat when I go out. 

I keep a running list of restaurants I'd like to try. Friday night I got to cross off one near the top of my list: Haven. Haven is the third restaurant from the Daniel Patterson Group, joining Coi and Plum. At Haven, the chef is Kim Alter, formerly of Plate Shop in Sausalito.

After wandering Jack London Square for a little bit in search of the address, we were shown to counter seats with a perfect view of the kitchen, always my favorite place to sit. Sparkling water in hand and a glass of Leitz ‘Rudeshweimer Klosterlay’ Kabinett on the way, it was time to make some food choices. Although they offer an ala carte menu, the menu header suggests you let them feed you: you can specify either 4 or 5 courses and they will adjust for any food allergies or aversions. Although I had come in with a few recommendations from twitter, the chef's choice seemed the way to go. It turns out that we ended up eating a rather high percentage of the menu. So much so that I will paste the complete menu below with dishes eaten and comments in purple.  

Both the food and service were excellent. Dishes were well executed and presented on an amazing array of different plates. So many different plates, that it became almost a game to guess which dish would be served in the plates we saw on display. Service was attentive, but not obtrusive and the recommendation for the Marchesi di Gresy nebbiolo off their by the glass list, was a good one. 
My one real complaint is a first world problem: they really sent out far too much food, especially given how filling some of the dishes were. I think a lot of that had to do with the restaurant being new and eager to please, as the chef stopped by to ask if we wanted more at one point. But it is also the reality of the seasonal ingredients available. Almost every single produce item was something I had gotten in my veggie box in the last month or so and even with our enviable growing season, the reality of January is heavier than the tomatoes of summer.

Food Menu

"We invite you to enjoy the chef’s menu served family style for tables of two or more.
We will carefully prepare four or five courses to your taste and preferences. Experience our intriguing menu and its delightful surprises prepared specially for you."
Watermelon radish, avocado amuse: A perfect fresh bite.
Parker house rolls: I admit it, I love rolls. These are served by request only and worth asking for.


FENNEL SOUP, lemon preserves, anise, pearl onions – 10: One of the highlights of the night and I'm not even that keen on fennel. Comfort food made special with the addition of the lemon  and fennel. Beautifully presented with the accompaniments in a bowl and soup poured at the table.
CHICORY SALAD, shiso, apple, persimmon, pomegranate  – 12
LITTLE GEM, gorgonzola, celery, crisp chicken skin – 12: -Love the idea of the chicken skin in place of the more common bacon. I felt though that it could have used an additional piece or two of skin and that the skin could have been a bit crispier.
HEIRLOOM SQUASH, barley, celery root, sage – 13
CLAMS, turnip, garlic toast, bacon and bourbon broth – 14: A dish I would not have ordered as I'm not a big clam fan. But, the broth and other elements were so good that I enjoyed it anyway. Plus, I do love garlic toast.
SMOKED PASTA, egg, bacon, pepper, chive – 13: This has gotten lots of comments online, but I had mixed feelings about it. It was creative as the pasta was prepared with smoked flour, something I'm curious about. Do they place bowls of flour in a smoker? But in the end, despite being very glad to try it, it reminded me a bit too much of kissing a smoker.
BONE MARROW, yuzu, radish, leek, toast, parsley – 15


DAY BOAT SCALLOP, beets, black trumpet mushrooms, blood orange – 27
QUAIL, quinoa, trumpet mushrooms, pickled mustard, almond – 23
CHICKEN, wheat berry, root vegetables, foie, banyuls – 24-: Another highlight that I probably would not have ordered on my own.Chicken served 3 ways: sous vide, confit and fried with some of the best root vegetables I have ever eaten. The wheat berries beneath enhanced by small cubes of foie.
SHEPARD’S PIE, pig, potato, winter spice – 25: We were very full so we only got a mini version, but a real standout. Will go back for this alone. Amazing light. Ground pork, foam and roasted potatoes.
BAVETTE, sunchoke, artichoke, béarnaise – 28 
BRAISED LAMB, carrots, allium, firelit liquor – 26


Non menu cauliflower baked in cream sauce with raw pieces added for texture: Like the best cauliflower cheese you could imagine.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS, mint, lime, garlic – 7: I do love fried Brussels sprouts, but have never had them before with soy and fish sauce. At my first bite thought it was too sweet, but found them rather addictive.

FRIED FINGERLINGS, seaweed, shiro soy, miso – 7: I could not really taste the shiso, but perfectly fried. Much like the Brussels sprouts above, they'd be perfect with a cocktail. I'd order these again as well, but they may want to rethink serving them immediately following the pasta.

SWEET POTATO, maple marshmallow, crisp shallot – 7


Non menu scoop of quince ice cream with pickled persimmon: Oh how I love quince. This was perfect, unlike some dishes that mask the floral notes of quince with too many spices.

BAKED CALIFORNIA, citrus, avocado, fennel meringue – 12

 LIME TART, sesame, milk jam – 12
CHOCOLATE CAKE, coffee, rice ice cream – 12--Nice, rich =, dark chocolate cake that pleased me by tasting more like chocolate than coffee. The ice cream was unsweetened, which surprised me. The crispy rice alongside was a great for contrast.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: Time for Pressue Canning

Willow and Oolong hoping the box will be emptied and available soon.
Pressure canning is one of those things that I have meant to try for a few years now. I had all sorts of excuses: I was still mastering water bath canning, I didn't have a pressure canner, Even if I had a pressure canner I had no storage space for it, etc. 
An early birthday gift, courtesy of friend Amy, suggests that I may have run out of excuses.  
So the question now is what to start with? I'll read guidebooks and research on my own, but I'm guessing that like with water bath canning, there are a few tips that I might like to know ahead of time. I'd love some suggestions of favorite recipes. Stock, pumpkin, beans?  Oolong and Willow, by the way, are hoping for home canned fish and meat.

When asked to look at the camera, they prove once again that cats do not obey orders.