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Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl

Over the Summer I read the books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child.  Of course when the movie came out I convinced Richie to take me to see it.  The previews were funny enough but after being put through hours upon hours of the Food Network I’m certain Richie must have dreaded it just a little bit.  It turned out to be one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.  The story flowed well between Julie and Julia and Amy Adams’ and Meryl Streeps performances were spot on and hilarious.  And the food!  Oh the food looked delicious. 

After seeing the movie Richie bought me a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 and suggested that I try some of the recipes.

Two weeks ago I cooked the famed Boeuf Bourguignon with brown-braised onions and sauteed fresh mushrooms.  For sides we had cracked new potatoes (an Amy Finley recipe) and Asperges a la Beurre au Citron (Aperagus with Lemon Butter, a Julia Child recipe).  For desert I had made Le Marquis which is a chocolate spongecake with Creme au Beurre, Menagere which is a butter cream frosting with powdered sugar.  The meal was absolutely divine but literally took hours to prepare and I began to think that this French Cooking thing was not for me.  The results were fantastic and the process was enjoyable but the amount of dishes at the end was daunting to say the least.

It seems as if each recipe in this book is several pages in length and references at least two other recipes or techniques in the book. The opening sentences of the cookbook read,

This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistline, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat.  Written for those who love to cook, the recipes are as detailed as we have felt they should be so the reader will know exactly what is involved and how to go about it.  This makes them a bit longer than usual, and some of the recipes are quite long indeed.

WOW! She wasn’t kidding.  I think I have grasped and understanding of why French Cooks/Chefs are so talented and the french methods are coveted by so many chefs.  While labor intensive and long, the culinary knowledge you gain from cooking a single recipe can a turning point in your cooking skill.  The recipes aren’t about putting together food items as much as they are about getting to know the ingredients, building an understanding of how they work together and learning to combine technique and flavor in an effective and tasty recipe. 

After two weeks of rest and cooking food that was good but not great I decided it was high time to break out MTAOFC again and see what treats I could whip up.  I had a beautiful whole chicken on hand and some juicy looking pears from the farmers market that I knew I wanted to use.

For the meal I decided on Polet Roti (Roast Chicken), Puree de Pommes de Terres a l’ail Roti (Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes) and Choux de Bruxelles Etuves a la Creme, or Creamed Brussels Sprouts.

For dessert I made Tarte Aux Poires a la Bourdaloue. 


Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl

The tart crust is a Pate Sablee or sugar crust.  Basically it is similar to a sugar cookie only a little less dense.  The Pears are poached in Red Wine.  The recipe calls for Bordeaux Wine but I had Chianti so that is what I used.  After poaching the pears are removed and the wine sauce is reduced until it is thick and syrupy.  It is then mixed with jelly(the recipe calls for red currant but I used strawberry) and brushed over the crust.  The wine reduction takes on a deep earthy grapey taste that is amazing.  The crust is then filled with a chilled Frangipane, or almond custard, and then topped with the sliced poached pears.  I also toasted some slivered almonds to decorate the edges.

French cooking isn’t easy but the tastes are pure and amazing.  It takes time and patience and is even better if you can convince someone else to wash the dishes.  And the best part is sitting down to a meal with the ones you love, knowing you are eating good food that was made with love.

Please Note all photos are Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl.  Please do not copy or use these photos without my written permission.

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Well for today’s activities I am trying something new!  In my garden this year I planted some banana peppers.  Mine are mostly small and my crop hasn’t been very good, but a friend was OVERLOADED with them and passed a big plastic bag full of them to me.  So I decided I would can some pickled peppers!  I love gettingbanana peppers on sandwiches at deli’s but they just aren’t something I would think of to buy for at home. I figured, I have jars, I have vinegar, I have peppers, why not?!

Last night, in preparation, I surfed the internet for a pickled banana pepper recipe.  Let me tell you there are HUNDREDS of them out there!  A lot of them called for sugar but I wasn’t really looking for a sweet pickle.  A lot of recipes were similar to one you would use for bread and butter pickles.  A lot were similar to recipes that you would use for dill pickles.  I just wanted something plain old pickle-y.

Finally I came across the site Canning Pantry where there was a recipe for Grandma’s Pickled Banana Peppers.  It was just the recipe I was looking for!

Grandma’s Pickled Banana Peppers by Jerry Ziehm

Sliced Banana Peppers
1 tsp. salt per jar
2 tbsp. olive oil per jar
1 quart white vinegar
3 quarts water

In a large sauce pot add water and vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Slice peppers and add peppers, salt and oil to each jar.  Pack tightly.  Add hot liquid to jars.  Process jars 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

*I added a glove of garlic to each jar for a little extra flavor.

So – only time will tell if this is a good recipe or not.  I canned 6 pints.

Also – I just picked up the lasted issue of Mother Earth News.  I love this magazine.  It is one of my favorites.  I really need to subscribe.  I was flipping through the pages and saw a tip for making homemade grape juice.  My husband loves grapes and I had an extra quart of Mars Table Grapes on hand from my friend Joy at the farmers market.  I decided to give it a try. The tip is on page 38 and is sent in by Suzanne Mullins of Charlottesville, Virgina.  She says that you can put 2 cups of grapes into a quart jar, add a cup of sugar, fill with boiling water and process 10 minutes in a water-bath canner.  After six weeks you strain out the liquid and mix with an additional quart of liquid for 2 quarts of juice!  WHO KNEW! So I gave this a try too! I will report back in about 6 weeks to let you know.

Here is a picture of todays bounty!

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I have been volunteering at the new farmers market in Searcy.  I’ve had such a fun time and really enjoyed getting to meet people and getting some great seasonal products.  The Searcy Farmers Market is a Certified Arkansas Farmers Market.  That means that everything at the market is grown or raised in the state of Arkansas!  Vendors are not allowed to ship in produce and sell it under the presumption that it is local when its not, which is sadly what happens at many farm markets across the country.  Because each farmer undergoes an onsite inspection at least once a season I can be certain that what I am buying is local produce.

I got so many great things at the market Wednesday.  I came home with a bushel basket that was filled with new potatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, beets, spring mix salad greens, fresh pasta, butter, cheese, milk, eggs, peaches, red onions, bacon, summer sausage, shiitaki mushrooms, blueberries, green beans, pinto beans, and sunflowers!

I have been cooking up a storm with all my market finds.  Here are some of the recipes I made with what I have found!

Shiitaki Mushrooms and Brown Rice

10 Fresh Shiitaki Mushrooms
1 tbs. light olive oil
2 Tbs. White Wine (optional and only if you have on hand)
1 cup brown rice
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup Water
Salt to Taste
2 Tbs. Fresh Butter

Heat a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add olive oil.  Chop the shiitaki mushrooms into small pieces and add to the pot.  Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes or so until they have become soft and darker in color.  Add white wine to “deglaze” the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the liquid is evaporated.  Pour in one cup of brown rice.  I used a mixture of long and short grain.  Stir until rice is coated with remaining oil.  Add chicken stock and water and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.  Allow rice to simmer about 35-45 minutes or until done to your liking.  Remove lid and stir in two tablespoons of fresh butter and add salt to taste.  Enjoy!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of that one before we ate it all.  The mushrooms and butter were from yesterdays market.  The brown rice was leftover from some I picked up at the market last fall.

 

Buckaroo Beans

1 lb. (about 2 1/2 c.) FRESH pinto beans
6 c. water
1/2 lb. smoked bacon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 lg. onion, thickly sliced or chopped
1 lg. cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 sm. bay leaf
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
5 leaves of fresh oregano, chopped 
3 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped

Put beans into a crockpot and add six cups of water.  Turn crockpot to high heat setting.  Cut bacon into chunks and add to the beans.  Add remaining  ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for 6-8 hours, until liquid resembles a medium-thick gravy. Stir once or twice during cooking. Long, slow cooking helps make a nice, rich flavor.

This recipe used pinto beans, onion and bacon from the farmers market.  The oregano and tomatoes came from my garden.  The bay leaf came from my mom’s friend.

 

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

1/4 cup fresh butter
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh sliced and peeled peaches (I used 4 peaches)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 350° Melt butter in a rectangular baking dish. Set aside. In medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and baking powder; add milk; and stir until blended(will be thick). Spoon batter over butter in baking dish; do not stir. Combine peaches, blueberries and 1/2 cup sugar; spoon over batter. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes until dough is lightly brown. Serve warm with vanilla gelato, if desired(recipe below).
 
 
 The butter, milk, peaches and blueberries all came from the farmers market.

 

Vanilla Gelato

6 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 Cup Of Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbs. Real Vanilla
1 tsp. dried lavender
Pinch of Salt

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and thick. Add the lavender to a mesh tea ball and place in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, cream, vanilla, and salt and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove the tea ball.  Remove from the heat. Take 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture, and slowly whisk it into the beaten eggs. Next whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a metal bowl and refrigerate until cold. Once the custard mixture is cold, transfer it into an ice cream maker and churn following the manufacturers instructions. Serve immediately, or freeze in an airtight container until you are ready to use.

 

 This recipe used eggs and milk from the farmers market and lavender from my own garden.

Pasta Primavera

1 Pound Fresh Pasta
Variety of seasonal veggies (I used zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and shiitaki mushrooms)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Herbs (I used thyme, basil, sage and oregano)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add about 1/4 cup or so of salt to the boiling water.  In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the chopped fresh vegetables until cooked to your desired level of doneness.  Remove the veggies to a separate bowl.  Add the pasta to the boiling water. (Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.  If using dried pasta you will likely want to add this earlier.)  In the pan in which you cooked the veggies, ladle about one cup of pasta cooking liquid. Stir in order to incorporate the bits of fond on the bottom of the saute pan.  Add ricotta cheese and continue to stir.  Add Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the cooked veggies to the sauce you have created.  Add the cooked, drained pasta and stir until the sauce has coated the noodles.  You can add additional cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick.  Top pasta with freshly chopped herbs and additional Parmesan as desired.  Enjoy!

This recipe used veggies and pasta from the market and herbs from my own garden.

 

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The garden is in full swing!  If only the 1 million tomatoes out there would turn red!  I did get some dill pickles and pickled beets put up!  I am also drying basil, dill and lavender.  I am drying a few sunflowers so I can give the seeds to my chickens.

In real life the pickles are more green and the beets are more purple.  I wish so much my camera had captured the true colors!

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We have four baby birds nesting on the fan blade on the ceiling fan of our carport.  They have been flapping their wings all day.  I think they will be moving out soon.  They are overflowing the nest!

I am finally starting to harvest good stuff from my garden.  I have been using herbs for a few weeks now but in the last few days have also found a few early cherry tomatoes.  There were six.  They were nice and red on the vines.  They were sweet and juicy in my mouth.  They made my belly happy!  Today I found my first two cucumbers.  Now if I can just get some more ripe tomatoes I could eat a nice juicy tomato and cucumber salad!

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Strawberry freezer jam is so easy to make, really economical and AMAZINGLY delicious.  It is easier than traditional jams because you don’t actually cook the fruit.  However, since it isn’t “preserved” in the traditional sense it is important that you have enough freezer room to store the jam you make.  On Monday I made 36 jars of the stuff!  12 jars went into our freezer and 24 are being store in our chest freezer.  They can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. When you are ready to eat it you can keep it in the fridge for about three weeks.

Here is what you will need to make 6 – 1/2 pint jars

1 Quart ripe strawberries
4 Cups of Sugar
1 Package Sure-jell fruit pectin
3/4 Cup of water

Remove the green caps from the berries and place the berries into a large bowl.  Using a potato masher, crush the berries.  Add the sugar and stir.  Allow this mixture to sit about 20 minutes.  In the meantime you can wash and dry 6 – 1/2 pint canning jars and lids.  In a small sauce pan combine Sure-Jell pectin and 3/4 cup of water.  Stirring constantly bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 additional minute. Add the pectin mixture to the fruit mixture and stir well.  Pour fruit into jars, cap and let sit on the counter to set about 24 hours.  You jam is now ready to freeze.  I place 12 jars back into the box they came in and freeze them in the box.  This way I don’t have jars rolling out onto my toes and I have a place to store the empty jars when I am done so I can reuse them next year!

I had to purchase jars, berries, pectin and sugar to make my jam.  In the end each jar of jam came out to a cost of about $1.55.  Next year if I reuse the jars the cost will be even less.

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Mixed Greens with Grilled Eggplant and a Balsamic Reduction

 

Sauce

1 Bottle of Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup of Sugar

In a small saucepan combine vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil until sauce is reduced by half.  Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until chilled.

 

Salad

1 Medium Eggplant
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
1 large package Spring Mix Greens
Edible Flowers
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat broiler on your oven.  Slice eggplant into ¼ inch slices.  Brush lightly with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and grill until tender.  Set aside and top with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted and starts to bubble and brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

On a plate arrange mixed greens and flowers and top with a slice of eggplant.  Dress lightly with the balsamic reduction and enjoy.

For a heartier meal, add slice grilled or breaded and pan-fried chicken to the salad.

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