Tag Archives: travel

Week 33: Jams!

19 Aug

Last weekend I went to my friend’s parent’s farm, Shady Acres Organic Farm, in New York. It was amazing. The farm is completely gorgeous – there’s a koi pond, plenty of shade, and a hammock to nap in. Not to mention the gardens, where Ana and Bob grow tomatoes, greens, peppers, carrots, beans, watermelons – pretty much anything you could ask for.

Amazing, right?

Because Nick’s mom Ana is a fabulous host, we ate like kings the entire weekend. Dinner on the first night was freshly-caught fish, lightly fried, served with a zucchini relish that was to-die for. We had mussels for an appetizer, a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, and a delicious cucumber and dill salad. Everything was so fresh that it was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. The cucumbers and tomatoes taste a million times more amazing than those Shaws vegetables I grew up on.

Beautiful dinner table

The next morning we had an impromptu jam-tasting, using all the jams and jellies that Ana has made from the fresh fruit on the farm. We tried bluebarb jam, black cap/currant jelly, cucumber marmalade, spicy pear jam, and current jam. They were amazing! The cucumber marmalade was excellent, but belonged on a biscuit or cracker, not an English muffin. The spicy pear tasted like the fall and the bluebarb jam was sweet and delicious. I think my favorite was the black cap/current, which surprised me because I didn’t know what a black cap or a current was and didn’t think I would like it.

Breakfast jam-tasting

After the jam-tasting, instead of cozying up in the hammock or reading by the koi pond, we got to work. We made tomato sauce and bread and butter pickles and learned how to can them. Seriously! We did! It was so much fun too. We donned our aprons, stewed the tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, and tasted away. There were hours of  sauce-simmering and cucumber-cooling, and then we were ready to can. It’s a bit of a complicated process, which Nick’s mom makes seem soooooo easy. She  gets you right into the thick of things – we were stirring, tasting, pouring, boiling, and sealing away until we each had a dozen jars of delicious tomato sauce and crispy pickles to take home with us.

It was a completely amazing weekend at Shady Acres. We sat at the farm stand, picked fresh vegetables for dinner, fed the koi, napped in the hammock, played with the dogs, ate like kings, and canned like Martha Stewart. I fell in love with the farm and cannot wait until we visit again.

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Week 28: Rhubarb

15 Jul

We spent last weekend on a Cape with an awesome group of friends. We ate like kings and drank like fish. And we ate pie. Because I’d never had strawberry rhubarb pie and one of our friends, Kari, is an amazing baker and was willing to teach me.

Rhubarb is a vegetable (but, funny story, is considered a fruit in the US because “a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties” – wikipedia). The leaves are toxic but other parts of the plant are used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Rhubarb stalks are look very much like celery, but have a strong tart taste. Most often, rhubarb stalks are cooked and used in pies and other foods for their tart flavor.

Kari didn’t even need a recipe to make the pie! I was incredibly impressed. We used store-bought crusts because, come on, I was on vacation and I wasn’t about to be rolling out pie dough with a cocktail in my hand.

Step 1 is to cut up the strawberries and rhubarbs, which kind of look like reddish-green celery, but in this picture actually look like sausage, don’t they?

Kari mixed together sugar, corn starch, and salt and added the mixture to the diced fruit:

This mixture is amazing because it starts breaking down the strawberries and rhubarbs and making a syrupy, sweet sauce. We let it sit for a while, stirring it occasionally to make sure it was doing its job. Then we poured the fruit and syrupy mixture into the ready pie crust and topped it with another top crust. We brushed the top crust with milk and added some sugar.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Then we baked it for 20 mins at 425 degrees, checking on it often to make sure it wasn’t burning. Then we lowered the temperature to 350 and baked for another 30 minutes or so. This was the most beautiful pie I’ve ever baked*.

Perfection

* This is the only pie I’ve ever baked

Then we let it cool and topped each slice with ice cream.

The strawberries are sweet and the rhubarbs are tart and this pie is like their beautiful, magical marriage. Simply delicious. And now that I know how to make pies, I am so all over this. Watch out friends, we are all gaining ten pounds.

Week 15: Yellowfin Tuna

13 Apr

Let’s not be crazy – I’ve had tuna. But just tuna in a can, which is of course not the same thing at all as fresh tuna. I’ve ordered tuna just once in a restaurant (I’m not sure what kind) and it was served  rare, and I just didn’t like it very much.

This weekend I was in Portland, ME and had dinner at the lovely Street and Company. The place is adorable – on an old-fashioned cobblestone road in the Old Port, it has an open kitchen and a fireplace in the main dining room and is known for their excellent seafood.

We ordered two glasses of wine and Andrew ordered mussels marinara with linguine. I decided to try one of the specials that night, which was a yellowfin tuna bolognese. When I was a meat eater, bolognese was one of my favorite dishes. Since I haven’t eaten meat in nearly four years, I was so excited that they offered a seafood version, since I’d never considered that you could make bolognese with fish. The waitress assured me there was no stray meat in the dish but told me it did taste just like traditional bolognese.

I like to make sure the seafood I eat or purchase seafood is fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment. I use Seafood Watch to make sure I’m making a good choice (they even have an app!). Seafood Watch notes that yellowfin is usually a good choice and has a healthy population, but asks that you choose yellowfin caught with troll or pole-and-line, which have very low levels of bycatch (unwanted fish and other animals caught accidentally in fishing gear and discarded overboard). They recommend that US Atlantic troll or pole-caught yellowfin tuna is the “Best Choice.”

Yellowfin tuna is found in tropical and subtropical oceans across the world. It’s often used in raw dishes, including sashimi, or is served seared rare. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a 200-pound yellowfin tuna can swim at 23 miles per hour. Also, tuna may use a mineral called magnetite, which is found in their snout, to help them detect the earth’s magnetic field for better navigation. Interesting, huh?

Anyway…I ordered the yellowfin tuna bolognese:

And it was amazing. The pasta was homemade and perfectly al dente, the sauce amazing, and the tuna was delicious. Of course it was covered in tomato sauce, basil, cheese, and tons of other goodness, but I tried to taste it alone to get just the taste of the tuna. I loved it.

The yellowfin bolognese tasted just like the traditional bolognese I remembered. I cannot wait to attempt to make this at home!

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