KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

The Reunion: Meal by Meal

Tracy’s last post went back to the beginnings of our blog and our friendship.  Also, it was a set-up for the post you are about to read.  Tracy and I had not been in the same place since March 2010, so it was far past time for us to rendezvous, catch up and eat.  We’re going to narrate this post simultaneously with paragraphs denoted by our first initial.  And there will be many food pictures and jealousy (on your part).  Some of the pictures are of a lower quality, because I am a champ at forgetting my camera and had to use my iPod for a lot of them.

R: Tracy got into town around4:30, I met her at 5:30, and we got this show on the road. We had decided to make roasted butternut squash ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce with a friend of mine (who conveniently has a lovely kitchen and a pasta maker.)  So, we collected the things we needed (lots of butter, sage, shallots, etc) and headed out to my friend’s house.

T: It should be noted that the Basketball Player (that would be the woman with a pasta machine and great kitchen) helped make a great first night in Chicago.  Music playing, a dog catching all my dropped food morsels, and new stories told by old and new friends.  Thanks Basketball Player for your contribution to a great night!  Now, on with dinner.

R: She already had bread started, which we soon ate with some of Tracy’s sweet potato butter, and the Garrett’s popcorn we had also picked up on the way.  What took the longest for this recipe was roasting the squash, but once that was done, we were on our way to pasta.  We did make one substitution, ricotta instead of cream, which was more out of convenience than out of concern for our health (brown butter sauce).  Luckily, it was a great substitution and made the filling kind of light and fluffy.  Tracy was in charge of browning the butter.  It made the sage crispy, which added a surprising but subtle layer of texture.  In my opinion, and I think my cohorts would agree, this was one of the best meals I’ve made/had in a long time.  It was definitely worth the waiting and the work.  Those little ravioli just melted in my mouth.  And there’s a few waiting for me in the freezer still!

T: I was thinking the other day that I have had similar meals in fancy restaurants, for about $20.  I think the three of us ate that night, extremely happily, for about $15 in ingredients.  Not bad.  Not bad.  What more can be said?  Fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta!  (and butter)

R: Tracy and I slept in on Saturday and decided to make pancakes for breakfast, but these were no ordinary pancakes.  I had discovered about a year ago that grinding up raw sunflower seeds in my coffee grinder made a usable flour option.  The first time I used sunflour (just go with it) to make pancakes, the pancakes came out a bright green.  This time the greening was more subtle, but the pancakes were just as delicious.  I used a standard pancake recipe, and added in just a little wheat flour to help the pancakes stick together.  We ate the pancakes with agave, Nutella, sweet potato butter, and local honey, not all at once.

T: Don’t forget the freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice.  A lazy Saturday morning.  Making breakfast in our pajamas, eating half of it with our fingers and joking with The Comedian (Rachel’s roommate) and Murder Mystery (Rachel’s roommate’s coauthor).   We finally deciding we should probably brave the outdoors.

R: After spending some time in a local independent bookstore, Tracy and I started to get hungry again.  This time we headed over to Falafill, a falafel restaurant where you get basic falafel and then are able to top your falafel with all manner of mediteranean salads and toppings.  Taboulah, faul, Jerusalem salad, shredded carrots salad, spicy potatoes, minted cabbage, (they usually have minted beets too, but not this time, sorry Tracy), curry aioli, pickles, pickles turnips, yogurt sauce, olives, garlic sauce, and tahini sauce; all delicious.  Falafill is one of my favorite places to grab a meal in the city, and pretty much everyone loves it.  What’s not to love?

T: Rachel topped our falafel.  I have to say, it was certainly difficult to distinguish all the ingredients.  But in the end, who cares?  They were all delicious.  Maybe even better all mixed together.  Either way, hunger disappeared while laughing at headlines from The Onion.  Now, onward!

R: We wandered the city for a while, ended up reading in the winter garden of the Harold Washington Library before meeting up with some mutual friends from Toledo, my former roommate (Ms. Executive Suite) and her boyfriend (Science Man).  With our forces combined, we decided to take on Xoco, the cafe next door to Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill.

T: That is, after munching a bit at the our friend’s hotel.  Apparently Ms. Executive  Suite gets free nibblies for traveling a lot.  Thankfully she and Science Man were willing to share.  It helped tide us over on the wait for a table at Xoco.

R: I had been to Xoco before for hot chocolate and churros, but I was excited to eat their real food. There was an hour wait, but it was totally worth it.

T: Of course it was worth it.  The host ensured that we had beer and wine to keep ourselves busy while waiting.  Free samples win every time!

R: I had a carnitas caldo… which is like spicy pork soup.  It was really spicy.  We were given bread to go with it, after the host saw us struggling with the water to spicy things ratio.  My favorite thing was what Science Man had… but I don’t exactly remember what is was.  It was kind of like a sandwich sitting in sauce, which seems more italian than mexican, to be honest.

T: Maybe it was the ahogada torta ( Golden pork carnitas).  I had the Seafood Caldo which included mussels, catfish and shrimp in a slightly spicy tomato broth.  I could have licked my bowl, but I resisted.  More was yet to come.

R: But the best part was the hot chocolate at the end of the meal.  I got the authentic, which is mostly just cocoa beans and water, no milk need apply.  It’s just so tangy and chocolaty. Insurmountably fantastic.

T: I accidentally ordered the original hot chocolate, but was not disappointed.  Mine included milk.  Creamy and delicious.  Great way to end a great meal.

R: And then there was a hotel party.

T: And we should leave it at that.

R: Sunday morning meant a gigantic brunch situation, because we added in The Comedian and another friend from Calvin and her boyfriend.  So the seven of us met up at The Bongo Room.  We did have to wait a while because that place is pretty popular, but finally we sat down to various types of benedicts, for the most part.  I had the BLT benedict, with bacon, spinich, tomato, and a pesto hollandaise.  Potatoes with dill! It was delightful.

T: The wait wasn’t so bad.  Apparently Chicago understands that bringing a beverage to a waiting group will always make them happy!  I had the spinach, roasted red pepper and feta benedict.  The hollandaise.  And those poached eggs.  So creamy.  So delightful.  And those potatoes were crazy good.

R: We also ordered a plate of pumpkin pancakes for the table, which were served with some crazy maple cream cheese stuff.  We were stuffed to the gills.

T: Best Choice All Day.  Those pumpkin pancakes were A-MAZ-ING!  I was not hungry again til dinner time.  No kidding.

R: In the afternoon, we decided to just have a chill day.  We watched a movie, and sat around and talked.  We drank the last of my yuengling and planned to have stuffed pizza for dinner.  Now I know there are differing views on the best place for stuffed pizza, but I may have found a new favorite.  We went to Nancy’s on Broadway, mostly because it was close, also because I had heard good things.  Listen, that pizza was phenomenal.  And we stuffed it with onions, artichokes, spinach and green peppers. There was a nice balance between crust, cheese and stuffing.

T: Unlike a lot of stuffed pizza, this one managed to be fairly “light”.  Rachel and I split our second piece (I mean, they are huge pieces) but I certainly got my fill without worrying about wobbling onto the Megabus.

R: I think the weekend was, at least, a culinary/gastronomical success!  I still don’t know if I am keeping the sourdough starter Tracy brought along alive.  I’m not convinced it’s still growing.  And I still haven’t tried all the pickled/canned items I was gifted from Tracy’s larder.  However, it was a blessing to see my fabulous friend and spend real time in the kitchen.  We didn’t do a lot that didn’t involve eating, but we did have a lot of time to catch up with each other and our friends, which is really what sharing meals is all about.

T: A great [yummy] weekend indeed.  It was fantastic to meet members of Rachel’s Chicago life and to be reunited with some of our Toledo life.

The KitK ladies wish you all a week filled with good friends and good food.  Happy Eating!