Category: herbs

The simplest, freshest, easiest tomato sauce you’ll ever make.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Simple, fresh and easy summer tomato sauce. Adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

When it’s like, 200 degrees out, you do not want to be making something that takes hours over a hot stove. Nuh-uh. It’s too much. Even if you have the A/C crankin’ you still don’t want to be standing stirring something, sweating.

Wow, alliteration! My 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Clarey would be proud.

Anyway, I’ve been making this sauce for a couple of years now. Mainly in the summertime, but I’ve been known to make it in a double batch on a cold day. It’s my go-to simple sauce recipe because of a few reasons: 1) it’s easy, 2) it tastes delicious, 3) it’s quick to make and 4) it’s EXCELLENT on both pasta and homemade pizza. And it’s also amazing on crusty bread with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. Yum.

All you need (plus salt and sugar) to make the best, freshest tasting tomato sauce ever.

And best of all? There are 4 main ingredients, shown above, and two minor ingredients (sugar & salt). That’s just 6 ingredients in all. And in 20 minutes, you’ve got a delicious sauce, ready to eat. Also, it can be made with peeled whole canned tomatoes as well, if you prefer a chunkier sauce. Just crush ’em in the pot with your hands before adding the other ingredients.

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Bachelor’s jam.

Just when you think you’ve made almost every kind of jam there is, you find a new one. Or at least, thats my story anyway. I present to you today, “Bachelor’s jam”; one of the oldest kinds of fruit preservation there is. Yep. You read that correctly. One of the oldest. And might I add- the easiest.

Bachelor's jam, aka rumtopf. Fruit layered with sugar and soaked in alcohol.

In Germany, it’s known as rumtopf (rum pot). Perhaps you’ve heard of that. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

Rumtopf (Danish: Romkrukke), which literally means rum pot, is a German and Danish dessert, traditionally eaten around Christmas.[1] Once a popular traditional dessert, Rumtopf has become rather unfashionable in recent years.[2]

A mixture of various kinds of fruit, high-strength rum, often Stroh’s, and sugar is filled into a large stoneware pot (the eponymous rum pot) and matured for several months until the fruit is very soft and completely saturated with rum. Suitable fruit includes berries, cherries, plums and apricots. Not all fruits are appropriate for Rumtopf, and the overproof rum should be of only 100-110 proof (50-55% alcohol by volume), which is not commonly available at retail in all regions, but can be prepared by blending more common commercially available 151 proof and 80 proof rums.[3][4][5]

Traditionally, the pot is set up in a cool and dark place in Spring, and different kinds of ripe fruit are added to it over the months as they come in season. The fruit is thereby preserved to be eaten in Winter, when the Rumtopf is matured.

Bachelor's jam, or rumtopf.

In France? It’s known as confiture de vieux garçon, or bachelor’s jam. And sometimes it’s even called “officer’s jam” (which is even better & more appropriate for us!). I happen to think that’s a far more intriguing name, so that’s what I’m going with.

In order to make this, there is little to no effort on your part. Seriously. If you can chop fruit, and you have both alcohol and sugar in your possession, then you can make this. No canning required. You don’t even need to add herbs or spices or fancy stuff; it’s fine on it’s own. And best part? NO COOKING. At ALL. Not even turning on a burner on the stove!

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Surprise in the garden: Black swallowtail caterpillars!

…just when you think you’ve seen it all…

In today’s edition of “Things I’ve Found in the Garden,” we have quite the intriguing specimen. Imagine this: it’s a hot summer weekend day. Your parents are over having drinks on the porch waiting for a barbecue, you’re watering the garden, leisurely taking some pictures of Indy…

Indy in the backyard.

And of course taking artsy pictures of your tomatoes that you will edit & filter to look like they’re right out of 1970 (because Photoshop)…

When all of a sudden, your husband calls you over, his voice sounding slightly surprised and a little skeptical, to see some “bugs” on the dill. So you walk over, completely expecting to see those crazy looking candy-striped leafhoppers that are irritating the hell out of you (and your eggplants) when you look at where he’s pointing and see this:

Black swallowtail caterpillar on Fernleaf dill.

Freakin’ caterpillars! Not that many, maybe about 5 or 6, spread out all over the Fernleaf dill. Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. A total nerd. A science and history-specific geeky nerd person. So this stuff, this nature & science stuff, it totally gets me going.

So immediately I do a Google, and come to find out some very interesting facts-

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail,[1] is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma. An extremely similar-appearing species, Papilio joanae, occurs in the Ozark Mountains region, but it appears to be closely related to Papilio machaon, rather than P. polyxenes. The species is named after the figure in Greek mythology, Polyxena (pron.: /pəˈlɪksɨnə/; Greek: Πολυξένη), who was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

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Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

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Oui, oui: savory cheddar madeleines.

Savory madeleines with cheddar, dill & onion!

Have you ever had a genius idea and had to act on it immediately? Okay so maybe my idea for these madeleines wasn’t really genius, but either way I had to act on it immediately. I had just gotten inspired by flipping through the book Madeleines: Elegant Tea Cakes to Bake & Share by Barbara Feldman Morse.

In the book, there are recipes for both sweet & savory madeleines, as well as ones with fruit & nut and other unexpected varieties. I was sent the book to review back in October, but then I got sick, so I kind of put it back on the shelf (literally). But I saw it on my shelf and decided to get crackin’ on something delicious.

Savory cheddar, dill and onion madeleine recipe!

This recipe is not in the book; instead its an adaptation of one of the recipes plus ideas from my head and from another recipe in the book. I wanted to make a savory madeleine, one that you could eat with soup or as a snack. And one of my favorite types of biscuit or scone is a cheddar/dill kind. Jay always has fresh dill around- he not only makes homemade chicken soup from scratch, but also likes to eat it on sandwiches (seriously). And the onion? Well I just thought that it’d be a great addition.

And as far as the book goes… it’s great. While I didn’t use an exact recipe from it this time, I’m sure I will be in the future. A lot.

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Ail je ne sais quoi; or “garlic I don’t know what.”

French pickled garlic with herbes de provence.

Garlic. The most potent flavor packed into the teeniest package nature could possibly create.

It’s amazing isn’t it? The things you can do with garlic. The possibilities are endless. Roast it, sauté it, bake it, slice it, crush it, mince it, puree it, whatever it. Clearly, the only thing I can’t do with garlic is write a decent blog post about it. No, really. I have no idea what to write about this. True story.

Usually I just blabber so much I have to stop myself before I write a novel, but for this post- nothin’. Its not that I have something against garlic- I don’t, I love garlic. But I just really have no idea what to say. So with that in mind… I’ll just make up a story. Pretend you’re at your summer house in Provence. Yeah, that Provence (in France). It’s a warm summer day & you’re hosting an outdoor dinner party this evening.

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Pseudo-Dutch potato salad.

It just so happens, I am part Dutch. Not Pennsylvania Dutch, just Dutch. From the Netherlands. Land of the wooden shoes. I’m many things actually- but yes, Dutch is one of them. However I’m not a big fan of potato salad (Dutch or otherwise). I come from a family who LOVES all kinds of mayonnaise-dressed carbohydrate salads; macaroni, potato, etc. And coleslaw too. I did not inherit the love.

But ’tis the season to have barbecues, picnics and eat outside in general. And those usually include a type of salad; be it made with lettuces & greens or potatoes, macaroni or eggs.

Pseudo-Dutch potato salad.

I used farm fresh eggs from Queens County Farm. Obviously, any eggs will do. But just in case you were wondering where I got the blue egg, that should explain it. *wink*

A few of the farm eggs were on the small side, so I made an extra few. If you’re using regular store-bought large eggs, use only 5. For me, the farm fresh unpasteurized eggs seem to boil quicker, maybe because they’re sizes are so varied its hard to figure out the exact timing for boiling a bunch but I always end up with a bit of a darker circle around the yolk when using them. It’s harmless (it’s just ferrous sulfide) so it doesn’t bother me.

Easy pseudo-Dutch potato salad with hardboiled eggs, pickles & optional bacon.

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