We Jam

I’m a sucker for good packaging. When I went to the co-op this week, these concord grapes were laid out like a hot breakfast in their own specially designed little cardstock bag, a squatter version of an apple sack, with a long white stitched handle and perfect Manischewitz-y purple font extolling their delicious and organic status. And, they smelled so very grapey, an olfactory punch powerful enough to create lush sense memories on the spot. I bought a bag and carried them home. By the time I got them back to the apartment, the bag was a crumplety mess, and when I liberated them from their 4x6x4 home it was like a grape clown-car. They just kept coming and I realized I had way more grapes on my hands than I could reasonably eat. Sharp-sweet, tannic, and full of seeds, what to do? Obviously, make Grape Jam. I got out my laminated “making jam without added pectin” chart from the very back of my recipe binder, and went to work. Skinning, seeding, boiling, sugaring, boiling, pouring into jars, putting hot hot hot on toast. Sweet, simple, at once fresh and old fashioned, this jam turned out fantastically, and it’s the most glorious rich dark purple color. Oh boy!Quick jams like this are sort of just about the easiest thing you can make. Have a pot? Can you stir? Good. You’ve got what it takes. If you’ve never made jam before, this tutorial is ah-mazing and has great pictures of each step. This kind of lazy-man’s jam plays fast and loose with canning/preserving requirements, so it will only keep for a few weeks in your fridge (add “the space to store a pot large enough for water bath canning” to my “homesickness vs. wanderlust” chart) but with enough crusty bread and one or two friends who should be gifted a sweet little pick-me-up-in-a-jar and you’ll go through it in no time.

Basil

In anticipation of the frost, we pulled up all of our flourishing basil and made a huuuuuuge batch of pesto. We’ve now got at least 15 summer-bombs in our freezer to make it through the long winter. I continue to be wowed by the perseverance and successes of our little backyard garden. The last basil plant I kept in the city committed herbicide by jumping out of our 6th floor window and landing, crime scene style, at the bottom of the airshaft. I bet it’s still down there. Are my snack-sized frozen zip-locs a glorious root cellar full of pickles and preserves? Not quite, but, hey, baby steps. Have a wonderful weekend!

Lime-Aid

Despite the white-pants moratorium and the sweet chill in the air that has me playing “Autumn in New York” over and over, SUMMER IS NOT THROUGH. I repeat: DO NOT PACK UP YOUR JEAN SHORTS AND HEADSCARVES JUST YET LADIES! I love fall (it’s secretly my favorite), but I’ve also been wanting to cling to the seemingly endless twilit seaside days of the most adventuresome season. And, like-minded tactile and sense-memory based souls, I’ve discovered the best way to do that is with homemade limeaid. This is actually, technically, just lime simple-syrup, one of those non-recipe recipes that takes three things and through some magical alchemy turns it into a world of taste and feeling. Add rum and ice and you have a classic daiquiri, add tequila and you’ve borne the perfect margarita, vodka makes a sideways Tom Collins (a shaken egg-white and some mint and you’ve got yourself a sideways Southside), or just add a few healthy pours into a pitcher of still or sparkling water and you have the most divine, freshest, bracing-but-tart-sweet concoction that’s ever come straight out of August.

Ingredients:

Lime juice
Sugar
Water

Squeeze limes. Boil equal parts sugar and water and cool. Mix lime juice and simple syrup. Voila!

 

Say Cheese

I simply can’t get enough of the divine and positively louche cheese spread on Saxelby Cheese over at the Selby. She arrived at the Essex Street Market around the same time I started frequenting it, and in one of those weird secret girl-crushes, I think trail blazing cheesemonger extraordinairess Anne Saxelby is one of those ladies that, you know, we’d really hit it off if we ever met in person, you know, just like Zooey Deschanel or Michelle Obama, but with cheese, you know? Here, in typical Selby fashion, her illustration of the ideal cheese cave, why parmigiano is like Elvis, and instructions on how to make something that sounds absolutely incredible, her “bourbon soaked grape leaf cheese wrap”:

A Bushel and a Peck

Sweetheart and I camped right along the extreme tidal flats up where Maine becomes Canada and the water rises and falls 25 feet with every hi-lo tide. We were in Cobscook Bay, “cobscook” being the Passamaquoddy tribal word for “boiling tides”. Part of the allure of our state park campsite was that at low tide “adventurous campers” (said the park literature) were permitted to go out into the expansive mud flats and get very dirty in the search for heretofore unknown to me softshell clams. Clams so fat and juicy and salty-sweet they can’t even close their shells all the way. We arrived just at low tide and ventured out to secure our dinners, while all the while the incredible fast and furious waters chased us back to land. We pulled a bounty, put them in fresh water to let them filter out their grit while we prepared the fire and tended to our sore fingers. When the coals were jewels, we banked and stoked and roasted the clams over the new open flames. Their salty juices hissed and spit, we melted butter in an enamel coffee cup by setting it at the edge of the fire, and spooned from the jar of cocktail sauce we picked up in Lubec (it was the easternmost cocktail sauce of the United States). Washed all down with dark brown beer it was a joyous supper indeed. And for dessert? The berries we had picked along the hiking trail that morning. It may seem simple to say, but it’s a certain city epiphany: how honest and good it feels to catch, pick, or harvest the food you eat yourself. To provide. When the fruits of your labors are actual fruits, foraged in the open, free in every sense.

The Secret’s Out: Fish Sandwich Edition

Everyone who knows me well knows what I’m about to tell you. It’s one of my few deep, dark secrets… not mentioned at the food Co-op, kept under wraps at yoga, quieted up and hushed down until certain forces combine and champagne collides with the morning: I love McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. Like, LOVE. A Filet-O-Fish (formerly #9 on the combo list, now #11- which I have learned in order to avoid the ignominy of actually having to say “I’ll have the Filet-O-Fish, please” in line and have other patrons look at me like I’m gross) is not only the absolute best cure for a hangover, its strange and incredible squareness is at once crispy, salty, greasy, miraculous, and, yes, a little fishy. I have been shamed by this. Now, it seems: NO LONGER! We are not alone. See above. This, dear ones, is the cheese fish sandwich from Laketrout in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). It is an homage to both the classic MacDo’s Filet-O-Fish and the orange-drink Baltimore fish sandwiches of the chef’s youth: a perfectly executed crispy square of fish topped with a sideways square of cellophane cheese and what I can only imagine is the worlds most delectable tartar sauce. Pandemic! WMD! The secret’s out, thank goodness.

This image from the absolutely incredible Fish Sandwich centerfold in New York Magazine’s 2012 cheap eats issue. Read em and weep (for joy).

Lil’ Harvest

Our little garden is chugging along—presiding over the (spotty) new lawn our landlord insisted on planting on the hottest day of the year—and weathering the stifling New York City heat (made even more mouth-breathingly hot by the hundreds of AC butts panting out the back of everyone’s brownstone, pointed at our zucchinis) surprisingly well. We pulled this ‘lil harvest on Sunday- two sweet knobby cukes, one lone, long red basque sweet pepper, two small banana peppers, and a mess of basil. Our eyes are trained on our one reddish tomato (one!), and anticipate its ripeness by the end of the week. Three meals worth of bounty isn’t too much- but it’s pretty darn good.

Bounty…

Oh the Bounteous Spread! Yellow squash, magda squash, cucumbers, young red onions, spring onions, new turnips, bright pink beets, savoy cabbage, new sweet corn… and Veuve Clicquot. All of nature’s good and honest yield, about to be consumed by Mama’n’Me.

everything but the bubbly came from Amy’s Garden– Mama’s amazing organic CSA (and, yes, of course she also got the flower share).

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