How to Save the Flavor of Summer
You may have noticed that I had a few guest posts the week before last. That was because I was just a bit too busy getting married and honeymooning to keep up my regular posting. Thankfully we have a whole team of dedicated foodies with years of knowledge to help out. I’d like to especially thank our resident Farm Foodie Debra Dubief for her help. I’ll have to make her a pie or something.
We returned from our travels happy, relaxed and ready to get back to the Northwest summer, so long deserved. As a pile of unopened presents greeted us on our return, it wasn’t too hard a homecoming. One of our good friends and resident culinary henchman at Boat Street Cafe gave us an assortment of homemade canned and pickled sauces and goodies that look amazing (pictured above), and taste even more so—at least the ones we’ve tried so far.
This got me to thinking about preserving the bounty of Farmer’s Market goods that are steadily rolling fresh off the farm by pickling and canning. Some things, like making jams and jellies, don’t really appeal to me. Although great as gifts, I want something I can use in a variety of dishes and as an accompaniment to a variety of meals.
In Skye Gyngell’s book A Year in My Kitchen, she lays out a few staples that she uses at her restaurant Petersham Nurseries Cafe to carry the flavors of the summer throughout the year. One of these is perfect for this time of year, as heirloom tomatoes begin to cover tables at local Farmers Markets.
Slow roasted tomatoes, once cooked, can easily be topped with a layer of olive oil and canned for further appearances throughout the year. For those of you that canning still remains a mystery, check out Fresh Picked Seattle’s canning and preserving page for more info, including canning and preserving classes in the Seattle area.
One way to get into the groove, is to start out with some simple preserving techniques that can bring that fresh summer zing into delightful winter dishes. Preserved lemons, used in Moroccan and other middle eastern culinary traditions, are an easy and delicious way to use fresh summer tastes throughout the year.
One restaurant I worked for, a small family-owned affair, was mainly supplied in the summer by the family’s 30 acre farm. We’d spend late, warm summer nights making batch after batch of pesto, sun-dried tomato paste, and romesco to use throughout the year. Each batch would then be packed into small sour cream containers and frozen. Throughout the winter we had a steady supply of delicious, garden-fresh pesto.
Next time you are faced with an abundance of veggies, or are perusing the overloaded tables at your local farmer’s market, think about buying in bulk and making a sauce, pesto or preserving a taste of summer to brighten your fall and winter dishes. Try this simple technique to get started –
The following recipe is from David Lebovitz's post on preserved lemons. His recipe is great and I couldn't resist adding his paragraph on uses, because it just sounds so delicious -
- Begin by scrubbing the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.
- Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there’s a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you’ve incised the lemon with an X shape.
- Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don’t be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.
- Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want. (Or a combination of any of them.)
- Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight.
- The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren’t too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until their submerged, as I generally have to do.
- After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they’re ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.
- "I like to finely dice preserved lemons and mix them with sautéed vegetables, such as green beans, fava beans, or to elevate lowly rounds of carrots into something interesting and exotic, perhaps tossing in a few cumin seeds as well. They’re also good mashed into butter with some fresh herbs, then smeared on top of grilled fish or a nice hunk of caramelized roasted winter squash. And I’ve been known to sneak some into a batch of tapenade, as well as adding some finely-chopped little pieces to a batch of lemon ice cream too!"
- To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.