aunt ruby’s green tomato gazpacho

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Courtesy of my tomato tarragon gazpacho recipe, but made with green tomatoes and half red bell peppers and half green peppers.  I am growing huge, juicy, acidic Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomatoes, and the first one is almost ready, so thought I’d practice with Aunt Ruby’s greens bought at the market.  The color isn’t exactly picturesque, but the soup makes a nice change from red gazpacho, kind of like a liquified salad.  Olive oil-fried baguette slices, salted and peppered, make amazing croutons.

peaches and cream with basil, rose geranium simple syrup, and apologies

IMG_0415For the next couple weeks, I’ll be out of commission finishing the final touches on my dissertation.  This means I won’t have time to cook or blog, but I do hope to post a few of the many photos I’ve been taking with my new camera, with a short explanation as necessary.

So many of my food blogging colleagues are exhibiting good sense and stepping away from the computer in these dog days of summer.  I’m not going to abandon it completely (showing my lack of good sense), but thought I should warn you that I’m otherwise occupied, and won’t be responding to comments.

So, to start things off, here is a dessert I would never, ever serve to guests, but OMG.  It’s a raw cobbler of sorts — a half a store-bought shortcake, crumbled, two local Red Haven peaches, smushed with my hands to a pulp, chopped basil, soaking in a bowl of cream and rose geranium simple syrup.

Actually, maybe I would serve it to guests.  It was my lunch yesterday, and I’m still thinking about it.

replacement cookware saves the day

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A long time ago, my chemical engineer boyfriend scienced me into buying anodized aluminum cookware, and I’ve always used it since.  In fact, I’ve used the same set since.  Starting with a few pieces before my wedding and the full set soon thereafter, I gathered a moderate amount of the stuff.  My ex-boyfriend’s ended up in the San Francisco Bay; well, one piece did.  That’s another story altogether.  But mine went forth and multiplied.calphpot2

Soon after I bought one of the saucepans, it “silvered” or de-anodized, which means the dark coating on the inside wore off because of something I had cooked in it.  Supposedly safe, we used it for years to make popcorn, since I thought I had ruined the pot doing so, and didn’t want to ruin another.

One day a few months ago, I thought I’d check the claim that it actually was OK to eat de-anodized pot popcorn or whether we might go blind with science.  I discovered something that rendered the question moot: the silvered pot was covered under the lifetime warranty Calphalon has for its anodized cookware, and not only that, but the other pieces in the set, which were not silvered but had tiny pits in the coating, would also be covered under warranty.

As equally quick to seek out new cookware as I was suspicious, I sent in a couple of the worst pieces for evaluation and replacement.  A few weeks later, eureka!  I received brand, spankin’ new saucepans from the latest line, Calphalon One.

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Little by little, I swapped out the old set for the new.  There were a few glitches when a piece was no longer being manufactured, such as my 2.5-quart Windsor saucepan or my 12-inch paella pan, but I worked it out with a kind, patient, and generous customer service rep, who put the ‘service’ back into customer service.  She went through the entire line, describing possible replacements and even offering whatever upgrade I wanted so I’d be satisfied.  And all this for cookware that was about a dozen years old.

Finally, I mentioned that I had one major piece left, my big stockpot and pasta strainer.  I told her that really wasn’t in bad shape, so I felt greedy about even mentioning it.  There are a few pits, I told her, but it’s still very useable.  She told me to send it in and they’d recycle and replace it, just so I would have a complete set of the new stuff.

Yay!

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Calphalon has come a long way since the days in which I bought my set — the handles are stay-cool now, and ergonomic, and the pots are handsome.  Still work as well as the old ones, probably better (I hope, at least, in terms of de-anodizing).  I just wanted to let everyone know that their customer service is commendable.  I’m thankful I decided to go with Calphalon, and I love my new cookware.   It’s not often I recommend a product or service on this blog, but I’m so happy with what happened, I have to share it.

last pickling class of summer!

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Run, don’t walk, with your pickle hats on to the next class in the Master Food Preserver “From Market to Pantry” summer class series: pickling! It will be held tomorrow, Thursday, August 6, from 6-9 pm, at the Lane County Extension offices next to the Fairground (950 W. 13th, Eugene).

For more information and to sign up for this or a future class, check out the course series brochure on the OSU Extension website, or download it here: MrktPntrySumr09 .

The pickle class will cover basic pickling techniques, such as  dill and bread-and-butter cucumber pickles, sauerkraut, and everyone’s favorite dilly beans.  The cost is practically free, at $15, and you’ll take home recipes, a jar of dilly beans, and a belly full of samples.  If you’re considering taking a MFP class this summer, make this the one!  You can’t beat the price or the quality of education, and we can’t say if we’ll be able to offer these classes again next year due to the ongoing budget problem.

And another comment on the budget woes — we are able to offer these classes because of a team of dedicated volunteers.  You’ll be assisted by a group of trained, certified MFP volunteers, who man stations set up for hands-on instruction and clean up.  The teacher of these classes often spends several hours preparing the lesson and sourcing jars and vegetables.  No one is paid for these services; we just do it because we’re dedicated to this lifestyle and educating others.

Last time a class was offered, the Register-Guard misprinted the class price as $5 versus $15, and a couple bad apples actually refused to pay the difference.  I’m sure it wasn’t anyone who reads my blog. But if you see them, tell them we’re already running at a deficit for these classes.  A similar pickling class in Portland would run you at least $75, often more.  You’re getting a bargain at 15 bucks, believe me, as you’re learning how to preserve the harvest, make homemade gifts, and support our local farmers.

talking local

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I’m preparing my presentation for the upcoming annual Gardeners Mini-College on local food and locavore eating.  It’s rather luxurious to be doing this at the peak of vegetable season, where all one has to do is lazily reach an arm out your window and grab a handful of beans or a cabbage or something, slap a few sprigs of summer savory on top, and call it a meal.

But of course, I’m going to make it harder and talk about lean months in the Willamette Valley, February through April, when locavore eating means munching on a raincloud with some rain sauce and a mud chaser.

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If you can remember those dark days, and you try to eat local as much as possible, what did you do?  I’m happy to include the stories of others.

So as you write, I will be out in my neighborhood gleaning, living off the fat of the local land…

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Nummy neighbor figs!  Desert King.  You know you want ’em.

the bees knees

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Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent the day playing with my new camera!  It’s just a simple point-and-shoot pocket camera, but a world of difference for me.  My old camera was a 2003 vintage, and almost the size and heft of a brick.  The image quality was growing poorer by the shot, too, so even my very limited perfect lighting food shots were beginning to get downright unpleasant to maneuver.

To say the whole world opened to my lens may be an exaggeration, but it didn’t feel like it.  I took hundreds and hundreds of shots of everything in the house: small details in dark rooms, long shots, shots of the insides of things, the textures of the outsides of things. I could never have taken any of these with my old camera.  I shot an exposé of my husband getting dressed, and close-ups of the cats sleeping.  Trash in the garbage bin.  An empty soda bottle from several angles.  Dust on a lamp.  My self portrait series, which I titled “The Aging Birthday Girl at Unflattering Angles First Thing in the Morning with Bird Nest Hair” is surely destined to be an award-winning piece.

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Then I went outside and did a bunch of macros of garden vegetables, pictures of my house, and details of veiny leaves and fuzzy insects.  I could have hung out there all day just taking pictures of bees in the fennel — the sweet licorice smell in the heat of day, busy mumblings of the bees at work against the soundscape of summer yardwork.

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Because of the fennel, I think, bees, wasps, and yellowjackets are all over my garden these days.  I’m not in the least bit afraid of them as they flit and sip and buzz.  They’re not only “beneficial,” as you hear them called, but essential for any fruiting plant’s productivity.  It thrills me to see them cross-pollinating my two tomatillo plants, and rubbing their little legs and backs in the deep, powdery pollen of my zucchini.

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I didn’t do a mason bee (our tiny native pollinators) house this year for lack of time, but I have tons of them, so they’re housing somewhere near by.  My neighbor has a shelter for them on the northeast side of his house, but I think that’s too far away.  Next year in my yard!  But, even homeless, bees spend the day in my garden and made perfect macro camera fodder.  And me a perfectly happy girl.

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In fact, I was so enamored of the bees and ensuing images that I forgot to take pictures of what I meant to photograph, which was details of our birthday grill.  Sorry!  It was delicious, too.  Flatiron kebabs marinated in sumac and yogurt, grilled zucchini from the garden, a Hungarian pepper, cucumber and tomato salad, also from the garden, and grilled bruschettas, rasped with a clove of my neighbor’s garlic, then piled high with more tomato and basil.  For dessert, my favorite sour cherry soup, meggy leves, made this time with local cherries from Hentze farm, a fantastic local Cabernet from Sylvan Ridge and pomegranate juice.  Oops!  You’ll have to trust me that it was excellent.

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It couldn’t have been a better birthday.  Thanks, sweetie, for my new pair of eyes, my new palette, my new world.