Well, the garden is pretty much over here for the most part. Squash is all dried up, to tell you the truth, the squash was the worst season I have ever had. Really had nothing to speak of. Not ONE squash. The pumpkins died weeks ago. Have a few tomatoes left, not many. Had some early on, but it is really dwindling down. We did have a ton of peppers, I think we had every variety ever invented this year. That was thanks to my husband, John. I don't like peppers. I think they are a waste of time and take up too much room. Why on earth would you plant so many different kinds of peppers. What can you do with them? Seems to me, beyond salsa, there really isn't much else. And how much salsa can you make in one summer? I had a few zinfandel grapes, got pretty excited about that. Was going to save them to have on a nice cheese and cracker plate one night under the arbor with our wine. By the time I got to them, they had already turned to raisins. HUH?
Had a few herbs, but even that was pretty grim. All in all, the garden this year was a loser. Now that I think about it, I think I am going to go a different way next year. I am thinking...an orchard. I love fruit trees. And I am really tired of looking at dry dirt. All the time I wasted this summer watering that garden, and if I am perfectly honest with myself, it really was just a big old dry patch of...well, nothing.
Being that the garden looks so "lifeless" I put this scarecrow out. And over the years, I have taken alot of heat over this guy. First of all, he has been called "tacky". I admit it, I did get him at Michaels years ago..because he made me HAPPY. But, no, he wasn't made by me, he wasn't something out of the Martha Halloween magazine,he isn't even something decent from some fancy "decorator" shop. And he's old. Which I kinda like. Some folks ask why I just don't get a new one if I have to have a "Michaels" scarecrow. Nope, he is what he is. And that's just fine by me. He might be tired too, but he makes me happy.
When we were little kids we lived in Santa Barbara and we had a lady who came to the house to help my mom with my little brother. The lady's name was Bessie..and she looked exactly like Mrs. Doubtfire. Exactly. Every afternoon we would sit down and pick out something to make for supper. Bessie is the one who introduced me to Vincent Price's " A Treasury of Great Recipes". But she had lots of her own recipes a well. One of our very favorite was the Dilly Casserole Bread. I made it last night to go with my swiss steak and mashed potatoes. It smelled of days gone by. I love dill in summer, so as the late afternoon sun sank over Mission Mountain, I flipped on the kitchen light, turned on the stove and slid in the cast iron skillet filled with the promise of warm bread for supper.
Dilly Casserole Bread from Bessie
1 package yeast 1/4 warm water 1 cup large curd cottage cheese 2 T. sugar 1 T. minced dry onion 1 T. soft butter 2 t. dill seeds 1 t. salt 1/4 t. baking soda 1 egg 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups flour.
Sprinkle yeast over warm water and dissolve. Heat cottage cheese till warm. Combine in a bowl with sugar,onion,butter,dill seeds,salt,baking soda, egg and yeast and water. Add flour to make a stiff dough. Knead into a ball. Cover and let rise 60 minutes till doubled.Stir down and put in a well greased 1 1/2 quart round 8" casserole. ( I use a cast iron skillet). Cover and let rise about 40 minutes. Bake 350 degress for 35 minutes. Remove bread from oven and brush with butter and salt. Maldon or a fleur de sel is nice. Cover with foil, return to oven and bake 15 minutes more.
Sunday afternoon I found myself home alone with nothing but a basket of apples to keep me company. Everyone else was off either camping,at the beach or working. It was cool for a late August afternoon and I wanted to be nowhere else but home.
The apples were the ones I had gotten on Saturday afternoon when Buddy and I took a ride up See Canyon. I tied on my apron and got out my favorite pie cookbook "Country Pies - A Seasonal Sampler" by Lisa Yockelson.copyright 1988. I guess it is offically vintage now that it is over 20 years old. I turned to the Autumn Country Pies section. It starts out saying "Just about the time children go back to school, I am in the kitchen making batches of dried fruit and spice mincemeat to use in pie fillings with apples,pears,cranberries and quarts of apple cider syrup."
The recipe I use is actually for a cinnamon pear pie with a walnut streusel, but I just substitute the apples for the pears, and the walnuts were ones I had in the freezer from last fall that I had gotten at The Avila Barn.
So we made the pie and had it still warm after supper. And yes, it did taste like fall.
As I am sure you all know, after this weekend, only one more left in August. So to celebrate we made pancakes with fried ham this morning. I got the blackberries yesterday at Gopher Glen. Buddy was restless late in the afternoon so we rode up See Canyon, it was windy and leaves were blowing all over the road. We had big dark thunder clounds here and as we rounded the bend, I could smell "the smell." That first rain of the season smell. Buddy and I went into the little shed where the apples are for sale and then..we heard it. Rain on the rooftop. Everyone got so excited. We had the lady bag some Burgundy apples. They have such a short season and are one of my favorite apples. Skin so dark and a very tart apple. Great for baking. We got back in the car and searched for the windshield wipers. Swipe, swipe, swipe they went...wind blowing and skies rumbling. When we got home I gathered a few pieces of fire wood, lite my pumpkin spice candles, and John and I ran outside to watch the show. We smiled as we watched the woodsmoke curl around the top of our pine tree. And we smelled the air. Woodsmoke and rain. And we were happy.
As some of you know, I have a thing for squirrels..and owls..well, all birds really. A long time ago a friend of mine who is a collector of early american antiques found a primitive hooked rug. (We always called her "the good"... cause her antiques were the real deal.) They came from the "fancy" antique shows. The ones put on by Baker and Co. (if you or your pocketbook are into that sorta thing). Wow, that is way out of my world. My house is filled with old things, cottage-type stuff, farmy stuff, things you'd find in Maine or Vermont...NOT museum quality....you can be sure of that... But one day along came this primitive hooked rug. WAY our of my league. But I wanted it bad. I knew if we got it,we would be eating macaroni and cheese for a long time. The macaroni and cheese in the blue box. You know the one. The one you can get for 2 for a dollar at "The Dollar Store". Well, we sprung for that rug. And we ate macaroni and cheese. Alot. Are we crazy? Well, I still love the rug. And ya know what else? I still love macaroni and cheese.
Yesterday was my first day making bread out of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice". And it went better than expected. I followed the directions to the word. Timed everything just right...and TA-DA...bread ! John fell hard for it. He really loved it. The recipe made 2 loaves and before supper we had nailed the first one..just standing in the kitchen eating it with cheese...we were going to walk downtown to farmers market last night, but we were so in love with our bread, we decided we would rather spend the evening with it. So we hauled out the cast iron skillet and fried up some bacon, then sliced some of the jackpot tomatoes and had the best BLT's we had ever had. So last night it was just me and John and the bread. And we all had a good time. Wish you were here.
I hit the jackpot this afternoon. John came home with a whole bag of these beauties.I know what I'll be doing tomorrow. Making tomato sauce. I love knowing that I had it together enough in August to get some sauce in the freezer. Perfect for one of those cold and rainy winter nights when you batten down the hatches, build a fire and smother your pasta in a summer tomato sauce. It will be worth it all come some stormy January night.
I'm not sure what is going on out here. Is it El Nino? That weird weather thing we get here in California...when it rains FOREVER in the winter. Which would be fine with me, being I'm on this bread baking kick and all. But this is just plain strange. I built my first fire of the season this morning...and it's August 20th. But, personally, I'm lovin' it. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm just not a summer person. "Hey, Kary..wanna go to the beach and "lay out". "No thanks." And especially this late in the game. I'm thinkin' fall. Have been for days now. Saw the leaves starting to change on the neighborhood tree this morning on our walk with Buddy. And those huge giant spiders we get every fall are back. They have been on "web making duty" most of the night. There are spider webs everywhere this morning. Tried taking a picture of a spider's web. That is way too advanced for me. Nothing showed up. It was a loser.
So here is a photo of my "headquarters". The Vermont Casting woodstove is one of the reasons we moved out of our house in Cambria. You see, that house had one of those fireplaces that has fake logs and sits behind a fixed pane of glass. And to start it, well, it's really easy, you just get up and go and turn on the light switch. HUH?
I couldn't stand that thing. I mean, come on, where is the smell of woodsmoke in the air? When you look at the roof, there is no chimney. Don't need one. No fire. My favorite thing in the world is to have a cool rainy day, an apple pie in the oven and being able to walk outside to gather logs to throw on the fire and see and smell woodsmoke!
Around here, we make a whole day out of going to get the wood itself. It is an anticipated event. We even make a special "going to get the firewood dinner".
When the day finally arrives (it already has this year) John calls Howard and we load up Buddy and head over to Squire Canyon to get the wood. And on the way home, late afternoon, always has to be after 3 o clock, we make a trip up See Canyon to Gopher Glen to get apples. The Burgundy apples are ready right now. One of my favorites, with that dark red, almost black skin. Very tart.Goes great on a caramel apple. Hey, that sounds pretty good. How about some caramel apples tonight? And if the weather holds, we'll be building a fire too.
Well, we have gone from France for dinner..(which sounded really jet setter)...to the backyard. Yep. We're gonna do it again. We're bbqing. I tried to slide that french steak dinner thingy in under the radar..but he caught it.."What?" "We're not going to bbq that steak?" O boy, so there you go. And I went from scalloped potatoes with gruyere to every guys favorite...double stuffs...
Double Stuffed Potatoes
Bake some russet potatoes till done.
Cut in half and scoop out.
Mash potatoes in a bowl with some butter, milk, sour cream, black olives, gruyere cheese and s and p.
Fill potato shells with mixture.
Bake @ 350 degrees till hot and bubbly. About 35 to 40 minutes.
This was my first crush. I was in high school and I fell hard. " A Treasury Of Great Recipes" by Mary and Vincent Price. I have had this book for over 30 years and Vincent is the one for me. I love how the book takes you to restaurants all over the world. And tonight we are going to have dinner in France.We are going to have Steak Chevillot. Chef Chevillot of the Hotel de La Poste is the chef that considers this dish as one of his specialties. The recipe is simple, really. "A Treasury of Great Recipes" was first printed in 1965. It is out of print, but I have seen it on Alibris.
butter fillets of beef shallots red Burgundy flour marrow bones (optional)
In a skillet heat: 1 tablespoon butter and in it cook over high heat 4 fillets of beef, each 1 1/2 inches thick, for about 4 minutes on each side, or until brown and done to taste. Remove fillets to a warm serving platter and keep warm. Drain fat from skillet and return skillet to moderate heat.
1. Add: 1/2 teaspoon butter and 1 tablespoon minced shallots and cook for 30 seconds. 2. Add: 1/2 cup red Burgundy and cook until wine is reduced by half its quanity. 3. Stir 1 teaspoon flour mixed to a smooth paste with 1 teaspoon butter and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. 4. Swirl in 1 tablespoon butter and when butter is melted, add: 2 tablespoons red Burgundy.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce over each fillet, and serve immediately. If desired, top each fillet with a slice of poached beef marrow.
Today is the day that I hop on the wagon and join "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" challenge. It is a group of bakers that have joined Nicole at "Pinch My Salt" and are making a bread a week out of Peter Reinhart's award winning bread book.
A friend of mine told me recently (you know who you are) to keep your expectations low..that way, you're never dissapointed. I think that may be pretty good advice for me here. I tried this once before when the "Baking With Julia" book came out. It didn't go well. Those breads looked so beautiful in the pictures. Mine, however, were another story. And I consider myself a pretty good baker.But it was a challenge to be sure. So here I go again. Apron on, book in hand, got the King Arthur flour, got fresh yeast, am actually studying the book like a textbook...and this time... I hope I'm not dissapointed. To be honest, I'm keeping my expectations...low.
Old recipes and old recipe boxes fill me with happiness and contentment. The red plaid one was my mothers. And I am lucky to have it. I remember it sitting on the drainboard in our kitchen when I was a little girl. Every afternoon my mom would start going through it wondering what to make for supper.I treasure her handwriting on those recipes. My mom passed away 3 years ago this August from cancer. But having those old recipes is like having a piece of her here with me still. The meatball recipe was from my Aunt in Santa Cruz. I love to serve those with boiled white rice and gravy. We are still in bbq mode around here, but I am sensing a shift. I am growing tired of bbqed burgers and chicken right about now. I want those meatballs and some gravy and corn that is no longer on a cob, but in a can. I know. Canned corn? But it reminds me of my childhood. And how can that be a bad thing?
So, once again, tonight we will sit outside and bbq those burgers and eat that corn off the cob. And I better enjoy every second of it, because, before long, I will look out to that garden and watch the rain pour down and remember those late August bbqed suppers. And I will smile.
I couldn't help myself..it was cool here this morning..and I was pretty sure the Halloween Police weren't stopping by today..so what the heck...I did it. And I LOVE it. It just makes me HAPPY...Oh, it is my kitchen window..and the recipe is for taco casserole..anybody gettin' a fall off of that?
Well, we were tired after the birthday party, but we did manage to make a pizza.John likes sausage and I like plain cheese..so we split it. I always wonder how much of that sausage grease runs onto my side, but I never say anything. But it was good. And it makes us happy to make it.
As you will soon see...we use any excuse we can around here to make pizza. I have been making pizza dough for 30+ years..I started making it in high school. And I have never stopped. I sometimes wonder to myself..is this the one millionth time and I don't even know it. ( I think about that when I buy cat food too..is it the 10 millionth can and I don't even know it) ! Pizza is my favorite food, my "last meal" "the ship is sinking", "stranded on a desert island and can only have one food" food. So tonight, in honor of the last quarter of the August moon..we will be having pizza. Last night at the party my sister-in-law brought a basil plant for my brother, and as they are gone camping for a while, I am "babysitting". Which means..lucky for me...fresh basil on the pizza..with some of the leftover fresh mozzarella(bought too much..Oh, darn) and some fontina I got at a fancy cheese shop that I have been sandbagging until the moment was right. And tonight...the moment is right.
the night will never stay, the night will still go by, though with a million stars you pin it to the sky; though you bind it with the blowing wind, and buckle it with the moon, the night will slip away like sorrow or a tune.