Saturday, September 24, 2011

Roasted Eggplant and Vegetable Spread

September is winding down and so is my vegetable garden.  This week we said a sad goodbye to our tomato plants.  Last year our tomatoes lasted well into October, but I think the volume of rain that has fallen since the end of August just plain did them in.  Tomatoes were splitting on the vine even though we were picking like crazy.  Paul managed to pick about 4 more pounds of tomatoes before those vines met their fate in the compost heap.   I still have some jalapeƱos growing and will most likely pick and pickle them by next weekend....and yes, the eggplant is still going strong.  

We planted 2 Black Beauty eggplant vines this year.  At first I wasn't sure they would make it.  They were a slow go, but once the summer heated up and the rain fell, those vines have been producing like gangbusters.  Right now there are about a dozen eggplants left on the vines and I am running out of eggplant enthusiasm.  I have made eggplant Parmesan, eggplant gratin, roasted eggplant, stuffed eggplant, grilled eggplant, ratatouille and given quite a bit of eggplant away.  One of my favorite ways to get rid of  prepare eggplant is to roast it with some aromatic vegetables and create a delicious and versatile "spread".  I put the word "spread" in quotes because you will see, it is much more than a spread.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brandied Peaches, Tucked Away for Winter

If you recall, the weekend before last was my frenzied weekend of canning, cooking, baking and general stickiness.  I think this year was a stellar year for peaches.  It saddens me to think that they will soon be gone.  I picked up a few pounds of peaches that weekend to tuck away for a dreary winter's day.  Peaches go great with booze, as you may already know.  I posted a simple recipe for Peachy Boozy Turnovers a few weeks ago. The turnovers were spiked with bourbon.  I decided to preserve my peaches with the addition of brandy this time.  After all, it was still sitting on the counter having just finished making my fig jam.

To be honest, I have not made brandied peaches in years.  I believe fruit is best eaten fresh.  I never, ever, ever buy canned fruit.  We only eat fruit in season or occasionally use frozen fruit to make a smoothie.  I just couldn't bear the thought of the end of peach season.  A few jars tucked away will be a welcome treat in the midst of winter.  Canning the peaches in an a light syrup spiked with brandy is not a substitute for fresh fruit.  I like to think of brandied peaches as an ingredient for something bigger, like a peach shortcake or a crepe stuffed with peaches and vanilla ice cream.  How about serving them on Christmas morning with your French toast?  Use your imagination!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Italian Prune Plum Jam and Some Reflection

     I really did not intend to write anything about the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 in this post.  What could I possibly say that hasn't already been said?  On the other hand, how could I ignore it?  It was a day that changed our world forever.  It was a day that touched the lives of my family, friends and neighbors.  It was a day that changed our country and maybe for the first time, made us feel vulnerable as a nation.
     After hearing the news, I left work and after what seemed to be an endless commute home, I turned on the TV and watched in utter disbelief.  I kept thinking to myself... this could not really be happening.  I would walk out my front door and look to the sky.  It was eerily silent.  No planes coming or going from nearby JFK.  Occasionally I would hear the scream of a military jet, an unfamiliar sound around these parts.  The sky was a different color and the smoke obscured the western sky for days.  I remember going down the beach with Melissa and seeing U.S. Naval ships sitting off the coast of Long Beach.  I remember telling her that they were there to protect us and that everything would be OK.   I think I was trying to convince myself.  This really was happening, and it was too real.
     The weeks and months that followed were filled with sadness and fear.  What I came to realize in the following days, is that I should never take anything for granted.  All these years, I would say goodbye to Paul and my kids as they left the house in the morning, but never really bothered to be truly thankful upon their returned.  They were supposed to return.  It was expected that they would return.  It was something that I just took for granted.  On September 11, 2001,  too many people who were expected to return,  never returned home to their loved ones.
     Every year, the world becomes a more complicated place.  I was thinking about that a lot when I started this post a few days ago.  Sometimes I wish we could just go back to that safe and secure feeling that we had as children.  Perhaps we were really no safer, we just didn't know any better.

     When I was growing up, my best friend's father had a beautiful vegetable garden.  He also had a few plum trees in the backyard.  One tree produced beautiful, juicy red plums.  The other tree produced small dark plums with green insides.  Those small dark plums with the green insides were also very tart and just didn't compare with the taste of the red juicy plums.  The red plums were the prize plums.  The little dark plums were usually left on the tree, feeling sad and dejected, until they fell to the ground and turned to mush.  We called those plums "ockies".  I have no idea why, but that became their name for all time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Drunken Fig Jam

So much to do, so little time.  That's how I feel lately.  This weekend has been a whirlwind of canning, cooking and baking and feeling somewhat pressured.  This pressure was all brought on by myself.  I have an obligation (I hate that word) to not waste the gazillion sweet millions tomatoes and bumper crop of eggplant in my garden.  I have herbs that need to be dried, frozen or turned into something else.  Oh, and prolific jalapenos need pickling, add that to my to do list.  Before I get into the eggplant and tomato mess,  I found myself running to the market on Friday to pick up a baguette and some garlic.  I decided to cruise through the produce section since I was there anyway.  I noticed the new crop of early apples creeping in and it suddenly dawned on me, summer is fading away and will soon be just a memory.  I walked straight past the peaches and quickly did an about face and decided to pick up just a few more pounds.  Then I zoomed in on some Italian prune plums, and thought to myself, isn't there something I wanted to make with those?  Oh, I'll pick up just a few pounds of those too.  And then there were figs, beautiful plump fresh figs.  Now how much longer are these babies going to be around?  Yes, I talk to myself mostly because I like my answers.  There were so many fig recipes I had planned to try.  A few pounds of figs magically jumped into my basket.

I soon returned home with my figs, plums, peaches and yes, my baguette and garlic. They all joined the  eggplant, tomatoes, jalapenos, herbs and I forget to mention, the over-ripened bananas that I promised to magically turn into muffins for Paul.  Like I said, so much to do, so little time.

It is now Monday morning.  My frenzy is over, at least for now.  My kitchen is sort of sticky and is crying out for a good cleaning.  I have lots of blogging material and tons of pictures to sort through.  But this weekend was not all work.  We got to go out one night for a nice osso bucco dinner and last night we went to Jones Beach to see Stevie Nicks in concert. (yea Groupon!)  Yup, its Labor Day.  The unofficial end of summer.  Today I may just take the day off, because tomorrow at 8:30AM my quiet summer is over, but that's another story.  I won't go there.  I don't even want think about it.  I do want to tell you about this drunken fig jam.