Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Looking For Me? I'll Be Under the Tomatoes...

Not much of a post this week. Blame the tomatoes!  Tons of them. All very lovely and tasty of course, but processing them when they are at the height of ripeness means that is all I am doing at the moment.

Clockwise from the top left: Burpee Delicious, Joie de la Table, Altaisky, "Liguria" & Petite Coeur de Boeuf

During the morning, daily harvesting usually starts with just a few toms collected on the way back from filling the bird baths.

Onions and garlic are curing under the pergola, behind them are asparagus & roses

Returning to the tomato beds, I do the real haul.

Processing involves making tomato sausage sauce, soup concentrate, and stewed tomatoes which are then frozen. Raw tomatoes, among other uses, are good for stuffing and topping macaroni and cheese which is then briefly broiled.

The golden acorn squash is, well, golden.

Delice de la Table, a variety of cantaloupe, probably will start turning yellow in a few weeks.

Dirac the Young Cat loves gazing through the potting room's window...

...almost as much as he loves snuggling within the folds of the ancient, faded, quilted jacket of The Calm One.

Yes, that is a scratch on his adorable nose. He gets a fresh one practically every week

À la prochaine!


Creamy tomato soup with Edam and rice

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Socca Croustillant with Tomatoes, Yogurt & Walnut Basil Pesto

The first flush of tomatoes was harvested from our potager.  The potting room's window sill is covered with them, as is the kitchen table: a delicious deluge of shiny, mostly red, some pink, large, medium, small, and all juicy.

Garnished with a puddle of tomato coulis

As there was pesto recently made from our potager's basil and some thick, creamy yogurt left over from making Spiced Blackberry Lassi Sherbet, a crisp stack of mini chickpea pancakes layered with sliced, garden-fresh tomatoes, pesto, and yogurt just was asking to be created.

Olive oil gives a nice sheen to the pancakes

Tomatoes! We bow down before you.

Joie de la Table, an early-season variety

makes 12 pancakes about 7.6 cm/3 inches in diameter, enough for 4 servings
  • Chickpea flour, 4 T
  • Cornstarch, 1 tsp
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp
  • Water, 6 T
  • Tomatoes, the best you can get, 2 medium & 1 small
  • Yogurt, Greek-style (that is, drained overnight), about 4 T
  • Walnut Basil Pesto, about 4 T (recipe here)
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • Garnishes: fresh basil, fleur de sel
Stir the cornstarch in the water until blended. Whisk in the salt and chickpea flour until the thin batter is smooth. Heat over medium-high flame a heavy bottomed skillet, preferably cast-iron, for several minutes until a few drops of water dance on the hot surface. Put about a tablespoon of oil in the pan. Using a measuring tablespoon, pour in the batter carefully. Repeat till the pan is full; mine took three. Cook for a couple of minutes until the edges are browned and the center is mostly dry. Using a narrow, metal spatula, loosen the edges and then flip over. Add a little more oil. Cook for a couple of minutes. If the pancakes are not crisping, more oil can be swirled around.

The lacy edges will have the most crunch

Blot each well with paper towelling and let cool on a wire rack (I use one from the oven). Wash and core the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the small one and process in a mixer till mostly liquid. Push through a sieve placed over a bowl. Voilà! You have yourself some coulis. Cut the remaining tomatoes into even slices about .64 cm/1/4 inch thick. For each stack, start with a pancake, then place a tomato slice. Spread first a teaspoon of yogurt and then one of pesto. Place another pancake and repeat, ending with a pancake. Do three more stacks. Top with some yogurt and make a depression. Fill with coulis and garnish with a basil leaf. Serve with any extra coulis.

Any burnt or very irregular bits can be broken off

Both croustillant (crunchy) and moelleux (soft), these little piles of goodness are scrumptious.

In the potager, so many tomatoes are ripening which is wonderful.

Altaisky, a pink and very 'meaty' variety

But it is satisfying to see just as many green ones as they will grace our table at summer's end.

Tomato 'Liguria', a fabulous, ribbed, pink, pear-shaped variety, good both for sauces and slicing

Volunteer seedlings are encouraged in our garden. A rose of Sharon is growing happily in hardly any soil, at the base of the pergola's ivy-covered pillar!

À la prochaine!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Spiced Blackberry Lassi Sherbet

In last week's post, Meg had asked if I ever tried freezing lassi. I now can say I have! The sherbet worked out well, boasting a plush texture and a pleasingly invigorating flavour. All this deliciousness was accomplished without an ice cream maker.

Not cooking the berries boosts the fresh taste

How to prevent the formation of ice crystals in general when making this creamy kind of sweet without an ice cream maker? Add ingredients that don't freeze: sugar; alcohol; fat like egg yolks/whole milk/cream; air which can be incorporated into cream by whipping it as I did for red currant ice cream. Additionally, break up the ice crystals every thirty minutes or so as the mixture freezes.

The last of the harvest from our potager!

makes two servings but can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled...
  • Sugar, granulated, 4 T
  • Blackberries, fresh, 237 ml/8 fluid oz
  • Yogurt, whole milk, 237 ml/8 fluid oz
  • Vanilla extract, pure/high quality, (the only 'alcohol' chez nous at that time), 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon, powered, 1/4 tsp
  • Cloves, powdered, 1/8 tsp
  • Nutmeg, freshly grated, 1/8 tsp
  • Ginger, powdered, 1/4 tsp or minced candied or fresh ginger 1/2 tsp
  • Garnishes: fresh blackberries, whipped cream & cookies (I used digestive biscuits)
The night before put the yogurt in a strainerif not stainless steel, then line it with cheese cloth or an old worn dish toweland place over a bowl. Cover and let drip overnight in the fridge. Put the storage container you will use for the ice cream in the freezer.

Nearly a cup of liquid was collected which is a cup less water that could have crystallised.

Wash the berries. Mash them with a potato masher or a handheld mixer. Push the pulpy liquid through a fine sieve which will take a few minutes. Don't forget to scrape off with a clean spoon every bit of juice from the underside of the sieve.

Mix well together the strained yogurt and berry juice along with the sugar, vanilla extract, and spices. Put in an ice bath or in the fridge till cold, about an hour.

Pour into the cold storage container and put in freezer. Every thirty minutes, break up the ice cream with a rubber spatula or a handheld mixer. Depending on your freezer, it takes around three hours. Before serving, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes.

Start first at the edges and then as it freezes, just mush the whole mass

What to do with that attractively jagged piece of cookie perched ever so rakishly? Crumble it, baby!

It was then easy to get a bit of crunch in every spoonful.

À la prochaine!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Spiced Blackberry Lassi

Muggy and hot. Hot and muggy. And some. The blackberries are coming in so it's high time to lasso a lassi. This one is inspired by the Punjabi style of topping with makhan though I used a mixture of yogurt and cream instead.

Gorgeous colour! And taste!

For a tall glass, mix together one heaping tablespoon of yogurt and one tablespoon of cream. Put in the freezer while the lassi is being made. Puree a handful or so of berries with eight ounces/237 ml of yogurt (I use a handheld mixer and the tall cylindrical container that came with it). Add about a tablespoon or so of sugar and large pinches of powered cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Blend until smooth. Pour into a fine sieve and work the liquid through using a wooden spoon, leaving the seeds behind. Add ice cubes if desired, spoon the yogurt-cream mixture on top, and sprinkle some cinnamon.

Our blackberry bushes have no thorns and fruit nearly the size of small plums

In the potager, about three-quarters of the onion crop have toppled over indicating that their bulbs will not increase further in size...

Those are Delice de la Table (a cantaloupe variety) in front of the onions

...hence they were harvested... start their curing in the shade under the pergola.

In the herb garden, the basil is close to flowering necessitating the rooting of some cuttings in water which takes about a week...

Flowering causes the foliage to taste bitter

...and transplanting them into pots so there will be plenty to go with the tomatoes when they ripen in a few weeks.

The new transplants will get pinched also to make yet more plants

Our Rose of Sharon bushes are strutting their stuff in the flower garden and will continue to do so through the heat of the summer.

Dirac the Young Cat finds delight in everything.

He loves the old pear tree

He also loves to scramble down when he spots something more interesting on the ground

À la prochaine!


Chilled summer-berry lasagne
Caramelised blackberry ice cream sundae

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Embrace the Blues!

Blueberries enchant.  It's those comely, slightly flattened spheres with tiny fringed crowns and that characteristic but always pretty bloom which pulls me to them.

This fall I will plant some that will fruit in July/August to extend the harvest

Oh how I wanted to make blueberry muffins, you know, the type that is really rich, moist, dense cake studded with juicy bursts of blue but are baked in muffin tins. The Calm One adores them while I have been known never to refuse one. It's just too hot to turn on the oven. So I went for the basics: whole grain cereal and blueberries doused with milk and maple syrup...

...and blueberry yogurt shakes.

Blend berries, yogurt & sugar in a mixer, top with yogurt and blueberries

Though the first raspberry harvest carried on last season's canes is almost done, the fresh growth from this spring is now several feet high and beginning to flower for anticipated picking this fall.

Raspberries, yogurt & ubiquitous maple syrup

In the potager, the tomatoes, onions, and winter squash are all developing nicely.

Eleven of our twenty-two tomato plants are in the upper left corner

Two of the four tomato varieties are starting to yellow which is a sign that ripening is in process.

Altaisky, a late-season pink variety and still green

Onions are filling out beautifully and should be ready for harvest in a couple of weeks.

Winter squash is delicious plus it stores really well in our cellier. Having previously tried my hand at growing butternut and potimarron, I chose a golden variety of acorn squash for this season.

All immature veggies are adorable, but golden acorn squash is supremely so

Queen Elizabeth shrub roses will continue to put out blooms until autumn.

The great love of bees, abelia, is in the background

The English lavender may be winding down, but the French lavender is just starting.

Rock (I will someday plant something drought resistant in it), hydrangea & lavender in front garden

À la prochaine!


Planting blueberries in pots

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chilled Potato Onion Soup with Herbs

The Calm One and I eat a lot of soups because they are inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious. Instead of eliminating such deliciousness from our summer menu, I puree them and add cream/crème fraîche/yogurt, a zap of zing such as sherry vinegar/fresh fruit juice, and alluring garnishes. They are then served refreshingly cold.

Topped with dill, Parmesan shavings, and tomato yogurt

Follow my recipe for Potato/Onion Soup with Herbs, Crème Fraîche, & Saucisses de Strasbourg but leave out the saucisses.

Dill, parsley, and chives, fresh from our potager

Scissors with multiple blades do a neat job processing a large quantity of herbs.

Completely puree the soup until it is exceedingly smooth and then chill well in the fridge. Add enough yogurt to get the consistency desired. Stir in some sherry vinegar and salt to taste because a cold soup needs to be well-seasoned for its flavour to stand up. For the garnish, blend a bit of tomato paste into additional yogurt until a lovely shade of pink, shave off some Parmesan from its wedge using a potato peeler, and select some nice dill sprigs.

Bring the Parmesan shavings to room temperature before garnishing, it really makes a difference!

The tomato in the yogurt goes well with potatoes since they both are in the same biological family which is a guiding principle Deborah Madison outlines so well in Vegetable Literacy; additionally the pleasing pink colour highlights the cool, light-green of the soup.

So pretty in a summery way!

In the potager, the first cropping of raspberries continue.

This is the only summer in all of the five we have lived here that I have managed to grow head lettuce to the point of it developing a head or as the French say laitue pommée. The secret? Protecting the lettuce from the sun by growing successive rows under some old, white cotton-sheeting stretched over metal supports!

I am so proud of this gorgeous head lettuce!

In the flower garden, the hydrangea is showing off its magenta blooms.

The more acidic the soil is, the bluer the blossoms: ours is slightly acidic

The abelia is doings its important job of attracting bees.

À la prochaine!


Chilled Cucumber Soup
Chilled Mushroom Tomato Soup
Chilled Carrot Red Currant Orange Soup
Chilled Golden Shrimp Chowder
Braised Lettuce, Garlic & Capers in Olive Oil