Cobbling together a cobbler while baking in the heat.

ApricotsApricots.

Nick called a moratorium on the jam-making, much as I was enjoying it – something to do with me being disgusting and messy and now the fruit flies have taken over, and he keeps stepping in sticky stuff, and my cries of “but I’m creative” are officially falling on deaf ears, despite the fact that our fridge was full-to-bursting with my week’s fruit purchases. It’s too hot to be making jam anyway.

And speaking of hot, hot pot. Steve and Sooin invited us over to eat the hot delicious food of Sooin’s magical making, and we were beyond excited. And also very poor, because life is expensive, so I thought that bringing dessert would make up for not bringing wine.

I thought I was inventing this myself, but it turns out I’m not really. Apricot cobbler is not new, nor are brandied apricots. I’d like to think that both of these things together is a grand invention I can take credit for, but that’s probably not the case. Stupid Internet, always getting to everything first.

Brandied Apricot Cobbler with Ginger

  • 6 cups apricots, quartered (or eighthed, depending on the size)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup brandy

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbsp. cold butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream

Put your apricots in a pan that’s 8″ x 8″ or so (mine is 8″ x 10″). Mix together the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, lemon juice, salt, and brandy, pour over the apricots, and toss to coat. Cover and let sit, one hour.

Apricots again.Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Mix together your flour, lemon zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Squish the cold butter into the mix, squeezing butter and flour between your fingers until the mixture forms crumbs, with some larger hunks of butter. The smallest should be crumb-like, the largest the size of kidney beans. Stir in the vanilla and cream until a soft dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 30 seconds, or about 10 times. You want to be sure that everything in the dough is integrated evenly. Roll out, then cover the apricots, tucking the edges in around the fruit. The dough will be no thicker than 1/2 an inch. That is what you want.

All tucked in.Optionally, you can paint the top with butter and sprinkle a little sugar over the thing. I used turbinado sugar for sparkle and crunch.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly along the sides.

Baked.Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Eating in Portland: Touristing for the Gluttonous.

And this post isn’t about recipes, because I am currently in the process of inventing one, although maybe it’s already been invented but I’m not going to search online for it and then once I post it, if I Google search for it, then my post will come up first and it will validate me AND the creative process. Tomorrow: Recipe. Today: Portland Love Fest.

With the exception of a few racist billboards, America proved to be pretty awesome. And not to be totally unpatriotic, but I think Canada has something of an inferiority complex as far as the US is concerned. I think it’s because we don’t have Happy Hour here. Or Crunchberries. It’s like America is Canada’s cool older stepbrother – we don’t really get some of the things he does, and sometimes he’s an asshole, but mostly we wish we could be as cool as him. Unless he’s Republican that year.

In America, they have a special line of Doritos just for stoners.

"Tacos at Midnight," anyone?
"Tacos at Midnight," anyone?

It was a hot one, registering 103°F, or 40°C, so we were parched the whole time. We got some lemonade, which I was totally going to make fun of until @katarnett posted her discovery that blue dye is actually good for you now, so now I guess I’m jealous that in America, raspberries come in blue.

It was freakishly good!
It was freakishly good!

Although it’s only a five-hour trip to Portland from the Canadian border, it took us closer to nine hours to get there, because of all the stops. Theresa’s dad’s truck, which we borrowed, had air conditioning, but old cheapness habits die hard for Theresa, who couldn’t bring herself to turn it on because of the chance that using the air conditioning might eat up all the gas in the truck, which might mean we’d have to get more gas, which was expensive. So we drove fast with the windows down, and stopped a fair bit for cool drinks and swims in lakes.

When we got to Portland, we refreshed ourselves with some deliciously cold, enviably cheap pints of good microbrew.

Theresa

Vincente's

Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Beautiful.

We stayed in a hostel called McMenamins White Eagle Saloon, and even though it didn’t have air conditioning and we were sweltering, it was a pretty awesome place to sleep for $50 (total, not each). Except that sometime after we returned to the room from the bar downstairs, I remembered that I once heard that there have historically been more serial killers per capita in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in the world, so then I couldn’t sleep in case one lept out of the closet or climbed through the open window to serial kill one of us. I never think of these things at home, which is also Pacific Northwesterly. It could be time to get serious about medication.

At the bar, we ate and drank for cheaper than we may ever have done either before.

Delish.And we learned about this amazing beer called “Ruby,” which is the most perfect girl-beer ever invented. It tasted like raspberries (the red kind), and it was magical and cold and everything great about the world in a single pint glass.

And we drank and drank and laughed and laughed and The Exhasperated Ex-Ex-Patriot came from across town to join us, and a marvellous time was had until I dumped too much dijon onto my $3.00 burger and then I felt sad but then more beer came and life was good again.

The next morning, after several cold showers and night terrors over serial killers, we went for breakfast at Voodoo Doughnuts. Prior to the trip, my two goals for my time in Oregon were simple: eat a foie gras jelly doughnut, and also eat a maple bacon doughnut. Turns out, the foie gras doughnut is sold somewhere else, and the maple bacon doughnut sells out like crazy at Voodoo, so much so that when we got there around 9:00 am, they were completely out of stock. I settled for a PB&J doughnut, which was a delicious combination of peanuts, peanut butter, deep fried dough, and raspberry jam. Manna.

Voodoo Doughnuts.

SDC11190

Voodoo Doll doughnut

PB&J

Oozing.

And so we took to the road again, sad to be leaving so quickly, but delighted at ourselves for all the gluttony. And I shall return to Portland very soon, as it turns out I am madly in love with it for the same reasons I am in love with Vancouver but somehow Portland managed to out-doughnut Canada and also the drinks are very cheap there.

Also, in America, they still have POG. No. Fair.
I hog POG too.So, I guess what I mean to say is that you should come back tomorrow, because I mean to tell you all about brandied apricot cobbler with ginger, and it will be all kinds of delicious and completely new because I will have invented it. I think. It’s very warm out still and that could be why I’m finding it very hard to have coherent thoughts, never mind the struggle it’s been to try and write them out.

Peaches that taste like candy.

Dramatic peach.
Dramatic peach.

I only eat peaches in July and August. Those rock-hard tiny little yellow bullets of no flavour you get in stores the whole rest of the year? Those aren’t peaches. Peaches come from the Okanagan, and they are bigger than my two fists pressed together, and did you know that your brain is about the size of your two fists pressed together? I like my peaches as big as my brain, sopping and sloppy and juicy and sticky all over the place. And they taste like candy.

Smaller than is ideal but still fabulous.
Smaller than is ideal but still fabulous.

Peaches are my favourite fruit.

I was an infant in the Okanagan, and my mom told me that my first taste of solid food was a peach picked fresh from the backyard mushed up and thrust upon my tongue. And every time I bite into a peach, the taste surprises me, as if it is the first time I’ve ever tasted one, because I always kind of forget that peaches are peaches and not that strange fruit that comes in cans or those terrible little abominations available at Safeway in December.

Okanagan peaches have arrived, and this week I bought too many. Apricots too, but that’s another post. So we were elbows deep in sticky, and it was great, but a few of them had turned on me, started to get a bit smishy, and some of them were just not soft enough for me to get ravenous with. I salvaged a couple toward the end, sliced them and drizzled them with cream.

On their way into my mouth.

Peach feast.As for the rest, I turned them into jam.

Because it’s not as hard to do as you think, and because canning lets you enjoy peaches beyond August. And also, it’s trendy.

Peach Jam!

(six one-cup-size jars)

  • 4 cups chopped peaches
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 package original, plain, regular old pectin
  • 5 cups granulated sugar

You’re supposed to finely chop your peaches. I finely chopped most of the peaches, leaving a few larger bits in the mix, because I like it when there’s the odd chunk I can chew in jam. Once again, I followed the Procedure for Shorter Time Processing when it came to prepping the jars, because it worked and I don’t think there’s any reason to screw with a system that works.

Put your peaches, lemon, and pectin in a large pot over high heat, stirring frequently until it comes to a rolling boil.

A jam is born.Dump in the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Bring it back up to a boil, and then, when it’s boiling so aggressively you can’t quell it with a bit of stirring, set the timer for one minute, and stir constantly. Remove from heat and fill your jars. Process as usual.

Jars in the mist.Then, wait. The most satisfying sound in the world is the “pop” of the jar lids as they seal themselves shut. I had seven jars, because mine were slightly smaller than 250mL/1 cup, so once I’d heard seven little pops, all was right with the world. And then I napped. And it was good.

Seven cute little jars with fruity lids and I smile and smile and smile.
Seven cute little jars with fruity lids and I smile and smile and smile.

Let ’em sit for 24 hours undisturbed. It may take up to two weeks for jam to set, did you know that? If it sets right away, then feel free to eat it tomorrow, on a warm, buttered piece of fresh bread. Marvellous.

I’ll bet you take to the Internet to start looking at condos in Kelowna almost immediately after you’re done.

You know when your week has sucked and it’s Wednesday and you smell and you don’t feel like trying hard over dinner? Make pizza. Everyone will think you like them way more than you actually do.

A few delightful things occurred today.

It was hot again still at work, and it sucked, but finally the powers relented and admitted that they also felt that it sucked, so now we’re allowed to go home at 3:00 pm until air conditioning arrives, and this is fantastic news. Soon, I will not smell like a foot a mere two hours after my morning shower. I hosted a brainstorming session this morning, pouring sweat and smelling like low-tide scattered with a city’s worth of fusty sneakers.

The good things:

  • I was home early
  • I did some dishes
  • I harvested my first tomato
  • I made pizza dough

Which is not something I usually like to do on weeknights, because my recipe for pizza dough is a three-hour process, not including cook-time, and that simply won’t do on a Wednesday. But one of my favourite local bloggers posted a recipe for the easiest pizza dough in the world on Monday, and I found it last night, and it changed everything.

And I harvested my first tomato from the plant on my deck.

My first tomato!!!So it went without saying that I would have to make pizza tonight. There is simply no point in buying take-out or delivery pizza in the City of Vancouver, because it is all a total waste of time. Ghetto slice is only good for the kind of indigestion and scoots that makes you stay home from work the next day, and the good stuff costs more than pizza is actually worth, which is okay sometimes, but only if there are drink specials, and we enjoyed too many of those last night.

Once you have the crust down, you can top the thing with anything you’d like. I topped mine with a sauce of olive oil, sea salt, finely minced garlic, and black pepper, and then piled on my tomato, some lamb salami, basil leaves, asparagus, mozzarella, and the last of the parmesan, which was not enough for anything but turned out to be just enough for pizza. And you must make the crust. It takes no time at all. I can’t think of a reason not to. I’ll bet you can’t either.

“The easiest pizza dough in the world,” courtesy of everybody likes sandwiches

(Serves four. Or two with leftovers.)

  • 3 tsp. yeast (I used fast-rising, but she mentions in the comment section that she used the regular kind. I liked the fluffy/crunchy effect of the fast-rising stuff, so go ahead and use that.)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of spelt flour. Fibre, you know.)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (optional … I didn’t have rosemary)
  • A sprinkling of cornmeal

Put your yeast in a bowl, pour the water into it, and add the honey. Let it sit until the thing gets frothy, about five minutes. Add your flour, salt, olive oil, and herbs if you’ve got ’em. Stir until the mixture forms a dough, dump out onto a floured surface, and knead quickly, just to make sure everything’s mixed together, and then put it back into the bowl and cover to let rest, 10 to 20 minutes.

Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet, and move your dough onto the sheet, stretching and pressing the cornmeal in. You don’t want any loose cornmeal or it will burn and smoke and then your fire alarm will go off and you’ll get even more noise complaints.

Dough.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Top with toppings, any kind you like. That’s the thing about homemade pizza – you always like it, because it’s always got stuff you like on it.

Uncooked.Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly and browned.

Pizza.Serve hot on the patio with a cheap/tasty bottle of prosecco. Attempt conversation, but don’t be disappointed if the heat makes it impossible. It’s not like you can’t talk to each other in the wintertime. The way I see it, the food will be there long after you give him the heart attack that gets him. Or her. Or them? So love the food. Everybody likes sandwiches? Everybody likes pizza too.

Pizza. Prosecco. Pretty.

Vanilla scones for your jammed-up summer berries. Starbucks? You fail. (Slash, I win.)

SDC11028
Vanilla scones with a generous smear of homemade raspberry jam.

Those little white-glazed mini scones that Starbucks used to have? Pretty good. Except the annoying thing about Starbucks is that all their baked goods look like they’ll be right tasty, and then you bite into them and realize that you’ve wasted $1.85. I wonder if they know that their baked goods are always stale.

So anyway, my mom was all, “you should make me scones,” and I was all, “yeah, I effing LOVE scones!” And that’s the truth. And once the jam was made, it seemed like I HAD to make scones, because the jam needed a vessel, a way to get into my mouth via something other than a spoon. So I made the Starbucks scones. And they were better than Starbucks’ scones. So we all pretty much win.

Vanilla Scones

(makes 16 cute little triangular scones)

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed into whatever size you can squeeze comfortably with your fingers
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chilled whole milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 or 4 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine the flour,  sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Squish in your cubes of butter, the way you would if you were making pie crust. You don’t want to crumble the butter into nothing – think of peas, and let your butter hunks remain about that size, no smaller. The texture depends on it.

In a separate vessel, beat the eggs, and add the milk and the vanilla. Stir the liquid into the butter-flour mix, and press gently to form a dough. When the dough is a single mass that holds together well, turn it out onto a floured surface, and cut into four equal pieces. Form rounds of each quarter, and cut each quarter further into four pieces, making sixteen scones in total. (If I am ever in a band, our first album is totally going to be titled Sixteen Scone. Oh, you forgot I was a geek? There you go – reminder.)

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, for 15 to 18 minutes. If you are going to use two pans to bake, rotate them at the half-way point, so that the one that started on the top gets a crack at the bottom as well. This is important. You will not enjoy black-bottomed scones, and all baked goods look better golden. I baked mine for eight minutes, switched the racks, and then continued them in the oven for another eight minutes. Cool on wire racks before glazing.

Glaze. Mix together your sugar, milk, and vanilla bean. You can use the whole bean if you want, but then your scones won’t be as pretty a colour, and they will look kind of dirty. Paint the scones with the mixture, which should form a runny, spreadable paste, like Elmer’s school glue, and did you know that stuff used to have a minty sort of flavour? It doesn’t anymore. Anyway, paint the scones with the glaze using a basting brush or whatever you’ve got.

Yes. Do it just like this.
Yes. Do it just like this. Hopefully your workspace looks less ... like mine.
Lurvely.
Lurvely.

Let the glaze dry, but serve these fresh, with your very best jam. Make all kinds of food-savouring noises. You will not sound like dying cattle, no matter what he says. Enjoy. And stick with Starbucks’ frothy milk drinks, unless you’ve got a better option. Then go with that.

Sexy.

Ceviche: Impressive for date night and not very many dollars. Which still somehow doesn’t nullify the other expenses, but oh well. I don’t know why we’re broke either.

On Friday night, I decided it was time for a date. And I thought that a good way to have a date and not spend too much money was to cook food at home.

Incorrect.

I spent $25 on two pieces of cheese and 100 grams of Norwegian smoked lamb salami. Kind of embarrassed.
I spent $25 on two pieces of cheese and 100 grams of Norwegian smoked lamb salami. Kind of embarrassed.
The lady at The Lobster Man didn't think it was funny when I shouted "ALLEZ CUISINE!" right as she dumped Larry the Lobster into the boiling pot. I thought it was HILARIOUS.
The lady at The Lobster Man didn't think it was funny when I shouted "ALLEZ CUISINE!" right as she dumped Larry the Lobster into the pot of boiling water. I thought it was HILARIOUS.

But it was an opportunity for us me to look nice and behave and not fight and play nice with each other which means not calling each other terrible curse words that usually people reserve for genitals. BTW fights? I read the Bloggess this week and it hit close to home. But anyway, we had a date night, and I planned six courses. But we were too full after the lobster roll to eat the last course, so we only had five. No dessert.

And I’ve decided that since I’ve babbled on a lot this week, I’d make this post mostly pictures with a recipe for scallop ceviche, which was the prettiest part of the meal. The recipe is tiny, but you can double it if you have a date with more than just one person.

The lobster is NOT moving really fast. The photo is blurry.
The lobster is NOT moving really fast. The photo is blurry.
This is one of my favourite pink wines.
This is one of my favourite pink wines.
This was very good. Next time you have access to figs, cut a slice into the top of one, stuff in some blue cheese, and wrap the whole thing in a slice of serrano or prosciutto. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. You'll probably want to ensure that these little figs are on every cheese plate you serve from now on.
This was very good. Next time you have access to figs, cut a slice into the top of one, stuff in some blue cheese, and wrap the whole thing in a slice of serrano or prosciutto. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. You'll probably want to ensure that these little figs are on every cheese plate you serve from now on.
Scallop ceviche on a beet "carpaccio." See recipe, below.
Scallop ceviche on a beet "carpaccio." See recipe, below.
Asparagus in garlic butter, topped with an egg poached in dry white wine, and shaved parmesan.
Asparagus in garlic butter, topped with an egg poached in dry white wine, and shaved Parmesan.
Chilled zucchini and basil soup.
Chilled zucchini and basil soup.
We had to wait a bit to eat the lobster roll, which is why this one looks darker than the others. Because it had gotten dark out. And after this, neither of us had any more room for food. But this was delicious, with cucumber and avocado and watercress, and lots of lemon.
We had to wait a bit to eat the lobster roll, which is why this one looks darker than the others. Because it had gotten dark out. And after this, neither of us had any more room for food. But this was delicious, with cucumber and avocado and watercress, and lots of lemon on a grilled garlic-buttered bun.

Scallop Ceviche

  • 2 limes (juiced, with the zest from one)
  • 1 small navel orange
  • 1/4 lb scallops, preferably the little ones
  • 1/4 long English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (reserve 1 tbsp. for drizzling)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (to top)

Juice limes and 1/2 of the orange. Marinate the scallops in the juice for 5 to 7 minutes. Toss with cucumber, chopped basil, and spices. Serve over thinly sliced roasted and cooled beets. Pour juices over and drizzle with oil and top with pepper flakes before serving.

Make this, but if it’s a date, don’t let the other person/people drink more than a single bottle of wine, and certainly don’t let them drink beer while waiting for the date to start, or else you’ll find yourself all alone at 11:00 pm while he/she (they) sleeps on the couch, with only the sound of snoring and Kenny vs. Spenny in the background. Which is less than romantic. Fail? Half fail? Hard to say. I slept soundly, full to the brim.

Canning: The Third Act. And it turns out that 10 years later, math can still get the better of you. Or, “Strawberry red currant jam.”

Pretty.So, a bijillion things happened this week and it was impossible to get to the currants any earlier than today, so you can imagine how much I had built it all up in my mind. Glorious red jelly, I’d imagined, spread all over the tops of little rounds of brie that I would bake in puff pastry – and then we got busy, and Nick’s sister Jess had a baby, and I ran out of jars and payday hadn’t quite happened and then I found myself in a copy-editing frenzy for my friends’ fantastic magazine on my day off and then there were shirtless French men on my deck painting and getting all aggro and asking me questions and my head was going to explode and then, AND THEN, when I finally squished all the juice out of the red currants, I measured and found myself with two cups. TWO. I did not anticipate this, and I calculated and estimated and everything. And I needed like seven cups to make jelly, so I defrosted all my strawberries from a month ago and made strawberry jam with red currants and was a little disappointed but holy crap. And then I burned my hand.

Curranty.

The whole thing ended in a twist? I know, I’m annoyed too. Luckily, the jam is delicious. And I’d had four beers for breakfast so I was in a good mood despite all the failing and French people yelling and the injuries so I totally didn’t even cry. Success? We don’t measure it with a very high bar around here.

Strawberry Jam with Red Currants

(Makes 8 to 10 jars.)

  • 5 cups crushed strawberries
  • 2 cups red currant juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Bernardin Original Pectin

Prepare your jars.

Combine strawberries and red currant juice in a large pan. Squish in your lemon juice. Add pectin and stir until dissolved. Bring to an aggressive, bubbly boil, and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring back up to a rolling boil, and then set the timer for one minute, and stir your aggressive pot of molten strawberries while they boil furiously. Ladle into your prepared jars, and process as usual.

If, when pulling the jars out of the boiling water so you can put your jam into them, one splashes you, COOKING YOUR GODDAMN HAND, then feel free to shout swears as loud as you want, regardless of how many French men there are on your deck. They probably can’t hear you anyway, and if they can, whatever. THEY SPEAK FRENCH.

Oh – remember how I wasn’t sure if the raspberry jam was going to set? It did. Loosely, but it totally worked, so I am triumphant. So, I guess this concludes my series on canning. I made some scones though, and I’d like to tell you all about them – they’re the Starbucks vanilla bean scones, but better. They go great with either jam. You’ll love them, I promise. Here’s a sneak preview:

Vanilla scones with jam.