The tomato plants in our container garden are a 4-foot-tall tangled mess. The cages didn’t do much to tame those tentacles. Instead they have become a wild hedge in dire need of a trim, but I couldn’t be happier with how unruly they look—the more branches, the more tomatoes. Just a week ago we started picking the red ripe ones. They’re so sweet that I’ve been eating them like candy.
Growing next to those tomatoes is basil that is also thriving in the sun. Caprese salads have been on repeat! It was time to put in a little more effort and soak the cheese in oil, garlic, herbs and spices. Those marinated mozzarella balls had a lot of flavor to match my homegrown cherry tomatoes. They even were the star of a summer charcuterie plate complete with berries and stone fruit.
8 ounces mozzarella (ciliegine or bocconcini), drained
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives, rosemary, oregano)
1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella, herbs, garlic, peppercorns, salt and red pepper flakes. Pour in the olive oil and gently stir the mixture. Transfer to an airtight container and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Let the mozzarella come to room temperature before serving.
Last weekend a wave of laziness overcame my usual hyper-productive persona. Never one to shy away from a project, especially when it takes place in the kitchen, I just couldn’t find the motivation to do much with the containers of precious sour cherries that I bought at the farmers market. They weren’t on my list, but when I saw them, I had to have them. Fresh tart cherries are only around for a short time.
I probably should have celebrated those special cherries by baking them in a pie, but I didn’t want all that fuss or crust. Instead I made a small batch of sour cherry jam. I didn’t bother canning because I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to polish off that jar. I smeared the jam on toast, stirred it into yogurt and even ate it by the spoonful. The jam was delightfully sweet, and I will definitely be making it again.
Sour Cherry Jam
Makes about 1 cup
2 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted
1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine the cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, continuing to stir, until the jam has thickened. The jam will keep thickening as it cools. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
About 5 years ago a friend taught me how to can. It wasn’t long before I had an entire kitchen cabinet filled with Ball jars and other canning essentials. My interest in home preserving has kind of waned since my initial excitement, so now I put those jars to use storing dry ingredients in the pantry and leftovers in the fridge. They also are perfect for transporting lunch to the office.
Last weekend I overbought grapes at the market. Jam crossed my mind, but I wasn’t crazy about spending an afternoon boiling and sealing jars for a small yield. Instead I used chia seeds to make a quick jam that gelled in no time. I loved the texture and how sweet this concord grape chia jam turned out, but the best part was that it only needed a little agave and no sugar.
Concord Grape Chia Jam
Adapted from The Kitchn
4 cups concord grapes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave or honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
Slip the grapes out of their skins and separate the flesh from the skins. Puree the grape skins in a food processor for 2-3 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any leftover grape skin.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the grape flesh until it releases some juice and starts to break down, about 5-7 minutes. Strain the flesh through a fine mesh sieve using a wooden spoon to push it through while removing the seeds.
Return the strained grape skins and flesh to the large saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, agave and chia seeds. Cool to room temperature before transferring to a jar or other airtight storage container. The jam will be thicken more once it is fully chilled.
Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
I spent the last days of 2015 in the depths of our closets and cabinets attempting to do some serious reorganization to start the new year. As expected, I only managed to sort my way through half of what I wanted, but I do feel a sense of relief. The best part was shopping in my closet and making discoveries. I am kind of embarrassed at the clothes that I had forgotten that I owned.
The fridge was another spot I tried to tackle. In the freezer I found a bag of shelled edamame. A few months ago I over-bought for snack time at my son’s school. With all these green little beans, I made a batch of edamame pesto with almonds and cilantro. This vegan pesto was thick enough to be a dip, but after stirring in a bit more oil, I tossed it into a bowl of udon noodles.
Makes about 2 cups
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
1 handful cilantro
1/4 cup almonds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
Pulse the garlic in the bowl of a food processor until minced. Add the edamame, almonds, cilantro, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture. While the motor is running, drizzle the olive oil through the feeder tube until the pesto is fully combined.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.