Rainy day harvest: first peppers of the season!

8 Sep
rainy day harvest

A spot of red on a gloomy day: my first picking of Jimmy Nardello peppers!

Rain, rain, rain. The nice thing about rain is I don’t have to worry about my container garden’s pots drying out. The not nice thing is my poor cherry tomatoes are splitting like crazy! I managed to find one lone yellow pear under leafy shelter with its skin intact. Right after I took this photo I ate it. To the victor the spoils! Sorry, Mr. Beard, none for you. In other news: peppers finally turned red! I’ve been staring at green Jimmy Nardellos for ages and ages, and just when I was giving up all hope: BOOM, red.

They match my rainboots.

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The Fourth Annual Festival of Meats.

8 Sep
4th Annual Festival of Meats

click to see larger image.

I’m really looking forward to the 4th Annual Festival of Meats (my third) this Saturday, hosted by the Albany Society for the Advancement of Philanthropy! If you’re not familiar with this event, informally known as ‘Meat Fest’, here’s the low down: ASAP members set up all sorts of meaty offerings at the Elks Club in Albany. A $25 donation gets you in, and from there it’s all you can eat until it’s gone. This year I’ve heard whisperings of steak, pulled pork, clams, suckling pig… and my fellow ASAP ladies and I will be putting on a delicious mashed potato bar to partner with the meaty feast.

In addition, ASAP will be raffling off a $250 gift certificate to Rolf’s Pork Store in Albany, a $150 gift certificate to Falvo’s Meat Market in Slingerlands, and a $100 gift certificate to The Meat House. Protein overload!

I’ve had a great time as a member of ASAP, an organization made up of people who want to encourage everybody to give a little back to the local community, and have fun doing it.  If that sounds like a good time to you, stop by a meeting sometime to meet the members and see what it’s all about.

First harvest of the season.

1 Sep

My garden is coming in late this year, but I expected it. I waited too long to set up plants because of the move, so here I am in the last days of summer and I’m JUST starting to be able to pick things. Hopefully the loads of green veg still on the plants will have a chance to ripen before the weather turns too cold.

However, a pleasant surprise: I had sent my dad some seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Library and he gave me some of his extra seedlings. I thought all of the tomato plants were green zebras. Some of the tomatoes started coming in kind of small and droopy-looking. Maybe the containers were too small, I thought, or perhaps the soil didn’t have enough nutrients? Either way I assumed it was a result of my shoddy gardening. Then one of the droopy little guys turned bright yellow overnight! It turns out 4 of the 7 tomato plants are actually yellow pear cherry! I’m excited by the unexpected diversity.

handful of heirloom tomatoes

First harvest of the season! Green zebra, yellow pear cherry and black cherry tomatoes.

Summer vacation.

30 Aug

summertime instagrams

I meant to post more these past few months, really, but ended up mostly too distracted to stop and sit at a keyboard. Hope you’ve been enjoying your last days of summer, too.

Last-minute experiments.

19 Jul

Six friends and I coordinated our wacky schedules to watch the final Harry Potter movie together. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for themed foods. I decided to see what I could whip up to celebrate the occasion.

I’d seen golden snitch cake pops earlier in the week and thought they were pretty cute. But I really, really dislike the texture of cake pops. I thought doughnut holes would make a great substitute, and I started daydreaming about making perfect little globes with edible gold coatings and fondant wings. Then reality hit: there was maybe an hour before I had to leave, and no time to go to the store. And right now I’m lucky if there’s milk in the fridge, forget about doughnut holes and fondant. Rummaging through my fairly bare kitchen I found the following:

  • EXACTLY 1 1/2 white chocolate squares
  • EXACTLY 7 strawberries
  • Random tubes of food coloring

A short while later the Golden Snitch experiment was complete:

edible golden snitches

Sweaty, messy and melting, but still edible. Yes, that's a sweet potato.

Here’s how it went down: melted the white chocolate and added a blorp of what I thought was oil-based food coloring to make it ‘golden’. Turned out it was gel and the moisture made the melted chocolate seize. Had no dairy so added a splash of oil to smooth it out again, knowing it wouldn’t harden properly anymore. Grumbled for a second, then decided to proceed anyway. Used a toothpick to dip the first strawberry in chocolate. Realized I had no place to put it to dry. Whacked up a sweet potato with one hand while yellow chocolate ran down the other. Propped snitch body on newly-made base. Coated the remaining strawberries and popped the whole thing in the freezer to set. Painted wings on parchment, let cool in fridge, drew veins on wing with toothpick, popped in freezer to set. Assembled with more chocolate and popped in freezer to set.

So much went wrong. Between the thinned-out chocolate and the heat and humidity the only thing keeping those babies together was being frozen, which also made them crack a bit. I took a photo at home since I was fairly sure they wouldn’t make it intact to the theater. But who cares? I mean, snitches! For my friends! For Harry Potter! Sometimes the spirit of a thing is so much more important than a perfect end product.

Getting packages in the mail.

7 Jul

Last week an unexpected brown paper package arrived. Inside was this little fella, sent by my aunt and uncle to warm our home.

garden gnome with bird

How can I resist that cheerful face? Our garden is incredibly overgrown at the moment so I found him a wee spot in a corner of the yard, tucked away on a mossy patch. I told him to be on guard and please keep those pesky beetles away from my rosebush but so far it hasn’t helped.

garden gnome

Surprise rhubarb!

1 Jun
hidden rhubarb

In the game of homeownership surprise rhubarb is way better than surprise asbestos.

M’s mom was on the deck scoping out our plants and said, “Hey! You’ve got rhubarb!”

Me: “I do?!”

Surprise! Turns out there are two big plants tucked along the side of the deck, hidden behind lilies and rhododendron. I’m not sure why it was planted there, it’s a bit of a shady spot, and getting to it requires walking through other plants. I’d like to try to make something with it, though, so I’ll just step gingerly. The kitchen isn’t completely settled yet, so it’s probably best to stay simple. Maybe rhubarb liqueur, or a rhubarb syrup? Now, where did I unpack the heavy-bottomed pot?…

Our new place.

31 May
welcomehome

Hipstamatic pic by Claudia, who helped us move in.

I officially vacated my apartment last Monday, and M. turned in his own apartment keys yesterday. We’ve shacked up, Albany residents for the foreseeable future. Since the move it’s been a blur of cleaning, unpacking, arranging, re-arranging, meeting neighbors, planting, planning, painting… the list of to-dos seems endless. But I’ve never been so happy to be so exhausted.

It feels great to be home.

Caring for your wood.

11 May

[Note: republishing a post I wrote for my old blog, Eat In Albany… it’s still a topic that’s important to me, so I’m giving it a new home here!]

In my misguided youth I’d blithely buy a wooden cutting board, use it for a year or so while it grew drier and drier and more and more stained and nicked. Then I’d start thinking it looked gross and would throw it out, or perhaps I’d accidentally leave it in the sink soaking in water and the thirsty wood would suck up too much moisture and crack and then I’d throw it out. Looking back I’m a bit embarrassed. But I just didn’t know any better.

Then a woman named Frances took me in hand and taught me her ways. Not only did I learn to care for my boards, but I stopped being fearful of butcher block counters and tables, too. Now, I’m not claiming to be the ultimate expert on the care and maintenance of wood. But the following simple techniques, built on from Frances’ first lessons, have been working for me for years. And I haven’t had to chuck anything since.

  1. Clean
    Google will provide you with plenty of opinions on how to keep wood clean and sanitary. For me the everyday answer is soap and water. If extra vigilance is needed I’ll wipe down the surface with full strength vinegar. For lingering onion and garlic odors I use ‘The Frances Method’ which consists of scrubbing with a lemon that’s been cut in half, letting it sit a bit, then wiping it off.
  2. Sand
    To remove roughness and nicks use the finest sandpaper you can find and rub in the direction of the grain to smooth the surface. This will help with stubborn stains, too. Sand with a light hand all over vs. focusing on one spot in order to keep things even. When finished, wipe down surface with a barely wet cloth to remove dust.
  3. Season
    Apply a thin coat of oil, wiping with the grain. Forget the fancy branded wood treatment stuff, just get regular old mineral oil. I get mine from our local CVS. Don’t freak out that they sometimes keep it in the laxative section, you won’t be ingesting it in any significant amount.
    Let the oil soak in for a bit, then wipe away any excess. If it’s been a while you may need to do this a few times. But, please note: if your wood is really dried out don’t try to make up for it by slopping on a lot of oil! Be sparing and build up coats gradually. Too much moisture too quickly is the culprit that causes cracks–the same reason you don’t want to let your boards soak in the sink.
    I usually treat my wood about once a month, more like once a week in the winter when the heat is on.
  4. “Seal”
    The prep surface of my island will get an extra step after seasoning: beeswax. For this I did splurge on a premixed mineral oil/beeswax blend, but you can mix your own (Google if you’re feeling motivated). The beeswax makes the surface slightly more water-resistant, fills in tiny nicks, and helps keep moisture in the wood.

In the photo you can see the difference in color between my butcher block island’s seasoned tabletop and the untreated legs–

ikea GROLAND

Ikea GROLAND: Seasoned v. Unseasoned

Bottom line: don’t treat wood like it’s disposable. With a little easy maintenance you’ll be able to love it for years.

Rainy day jams.

4 May

The end of April brought the end of the sock monkey & photography show Nicole and I put together for the Lark Street BID. Our month of exhibition went by so quickly! It seems like only a few days ago we were running around Albany taking pictures of those crazy monkeys. The end of the month also marked the finish of a thoughtful First Friday opening-night gift made by my pal Stephen: pâté paired with incredibly savory-sweet onion jam.

jars of pate and onion jam

Mmmm, onion jam. Paté on the left.

Stephen’s the kind of guy who has the ability to make everything he touches magically delicious, and this was no different. The pâté was great and disappeared quickly. And let me tell you about the onion jam. Oh, the onion jam. Wow. It was the first time I’d tried this savory and sweet treat and I loved it. I had a lot of fun exploring ways to enjoy it, too: a dab on some crusty bread with the aforementioned pâté. Tossed with roasted root vegetables from the farmers’ market. A spoonful stirred into scrambled eggs along with fresh herbs. Tasty, tastier, tastiest.

Here’s why I’m telling you this (it’s not just to gloat, I promise!): if you’re tempted to try making your own onion-jammy jar of deliciousness, now is the perfect time. You see, the key to most of the recipes I’ve found is lonnnnng cooking times. You don’t want to be tied to the oven in the middle of the summer do you? No. So, right now, before the heat, while the weather is a bit chilly and blah: pick a recipe,  get in the kitchen and give it a go. I will, too.