RaeDi at Hummingbird Hollow

Thoughts on Food, Words from the Heart, 'The Little Winged Ones'….

Blackberry Pie

T has been hinting about when was I going to use the blackberries in the freezer and asking what I was going to make with them.  I need to make some more blackberry balsamic vinegar… we have consumed the lot that I made last summer and the blackberry syrup was finished up right after the New Year.   Since each was such a hit I was going to repeat exactly what I had done this past season.  I sure hope that we have another big blackberry chop again this year!

T had some errands he needed to run and I decided to surprise him with a blackberry pie.  He loves pie of any kind… especially fruit pies.  He was so kind in giving up some of his fishing time to help pick blackberries last summer… I have to be honest here… he picked most of the blackberries. 

Blackberry Filling:

  •         5 cups Blackberries, fresh or frozen
  •         1 cup white sugar
  •         ¼ cup brown sugar
  •         ¼ cup flour
  •         ¼ cup quick cooking Tapioca Pearls
  •         just a little fresh ground nutmeg (does not take much)
  •         pinch of Lemon Zest
  •         small pieces of cold butter (about 1 tablespoon)
  •         1 Egg beaten with just a dash of cold Milk
  •         A little Sugar for dusting on the pie crust

I mix or whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Put part of the blackberries in a very large bowl.  Spread about ½ cup plus of the dry mixture on top of some of the berries and toss a little, add some more berries and sprinkle some more of the dry ingredients over the top of the berries until you have used up all the berries and dry ingredients.  I do not mix the mixture too much; you want the berries to stay whole as much as possible.  Set this aside to absorb and mix together on its own while you get the tart ready with the bottom crust:

Pie Dough:

  •         3 ½ cups All Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting
  •         1 cup Icing Sugar, sifted
  •         1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good-quality cold Butter cut into small cubes
  •         1 Lemon zested
  •         Vanilla Beans ~ scrape from one Vanilla Bean
  •         2 large Eggs, beaten
  •         splash Milk
  •        All Purpose Flour for dusting
  •         Sugar for top of pre-baked pie

I doubled the recipe, wanted to do some extra details on pie and would freeze any leftovers and use for the next time I do some little tarts.  Makes for less work next time around!

Sift the flour, powder sugar into a bowl.  Pour into your food processor.  Add the cubes of butter a few at a time pulse a few times and then add more cubes of butter until you have all the butter added.  The mixture should be crumbly, pea size.  You can at this point add different flavors to the mix if you are so inclined.  I am adding only the zest of lemon at this point.  I mix the eggs, milk and vanilla beans and then add to the processor.   Gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, you do not want to overwork the dough.

Flour your counter lightly and place dough on top.  Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator to rest for at least one hour.

When ready to use put flour on counter and flour the top of the dough disk and cut in half; roll out until about 1∕8 inch thick.  Place in tart pan and fit the dough, take the rolling-pin over top of tart pan with dough over hang to cut off, save the extra dough that you have rolled away for making dough pieces to decorate the top of the pie.   Roll out another half of dough for the pie top.  Once I had the dough rolled out I took my cookie press/cutter and with just a little pressure cut through dough to leave a little of the pattern.  I rolled the dough onto my rolling-pin.

Once I have the filling in the pan, I put several small pats of butter on top of the filling and then covered the top with the pastry dough on my rolling-pin.  Once I have the top on the pie, I placed some leaves (one side brushed with egg mixture to glue to top pastry) around the top and then  I brush the beaten egg and milk mixture all over the top.   Sprinkle a little sugar on and put in the oven (on a baking sheet) that has been preheated to 375˚.  I bake for about 40-45 minutes and start watching depending on the oven it could take a few more minutes.  Once it is nicely golden brown it is done. 

T asked as soon as he walked in what I was baking and took a peek.  The look on his face was worth every bit of the effort to make this pie.  It was delicious….

Mushroom Potato Soup with Chicken Liver Pâté

 

It has been an amazing week here in the Northwest, lots of sunshine and of course there has been some rain, but what would the Northwest be without the drizzle?  I have lost count of all the new hummingbirds, the new-comer Rufus’s and add lots more Anna’s arriving for the new season.  It will be at least another month before we see any Calliope’s.  The Allen’s usually live on the outskirts and visit regularly.  They are in the process of working out all of the logistics… all the planning of who will live where and who has control of what feeder and then when the wildflowers bloom in the fields and my hummingbird plants start to bloom they will have to start again!   Not to say that we do not hear bickering going on out there.  What is life without a little internal strife and squabbling among friends?

T has his manly meal the other day and I was trying to think of something different to make for dinner… something we had not had in a long time.  I am one of those souls who dearly loves Liver Pâté… I usually have it once a year either during the Christmas Holidays or like a year ago for Valentine’s Dinner.  With my Mother being sick since right before Christmas and then her passing just before Valentine’s Day we did not do much special this year… no Liver Pâté.

Liver Pâté came to my thoughts and I could not get rid of the wanting of… no the craving of it would be more like it.  I love to spread some on lightly toasted baguette… I could just taste it.  Then I wondered what would we have with it… another thing I dearly love is Mushroom soup.  Homemade Mushroom soup that is thick and creamy now I had a meal that I was going to make no matter what.  I wonder what T would think… was he in a mood for Liver Pâté and thick, creamy Mushroom Soup.  When I told him I was making a list of things I needed from the market for dinner he asked what I was fixing… I let him know and he said it sounded good to him.  He was even willing to go to market and get the few things I needed to make the meal… what a relief because I did not feel for the trip to town today.

I found this recipe several years ago from Food and Wine and started using it and it has been my favorite since.  Very easy to make and it is silky-smooth… it melts in your mouth.

 

  

Chicken Liver Pâté

Ingredients:

  •         1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed (I only use organic chicken livers)
  •         1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  •         1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  •         1 bay leaf
  •         1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  •         Kosher salt
  •         1/2 cup water
  •         1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  •         2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky
  •         Freshly ground pepper
  •         Toasted baguette slices, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover; reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.    

Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

Make Ahead: The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

 

 

Potato and Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  •         1 cup oyster mushrooms (1/2 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         1 cup shiitake mushrooms (1 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         3/4 cup crimini mushrooms (3/4 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         2 cloves of minced garlic
  •         1 finely chopped onion
  •        1 stalk of celery chopped up finely
  •         1 ½ cups water
  •         1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •         2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced very thin
  •         5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  •         2 large baking potatoes finely diced
  •         1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  •         2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •         Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •         1 cup of cream (I used fat-free half n half instead)
  •         Crusty bread, for serving

 

Finely chop the mushrooms, onions and celery (I used my food processor.)  Mince the garlic.   Place all in pan with water and bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer until mushrooms and onions are tender.  I let this boil down a little to make a headier broth, do not overcook the mix.

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, reserved sliced mushrooms, potatoes, and the mix you have already cooked, along with the thyme (I did not have any thyme so used parsley) to the pot.  Cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and butter and season the soup with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread.

This soup is amazing; if anything I would add more mushrooms.  It is a nice thick, creamy soup that you can taste each level of the ingredients.  The leeks make a wonderful addition.  You can make this without any cream or half n half and it is still very good.

T and I enjoyed the toasted baguette with the Liver Pâté immensely and the Mushroom and Potato Soup was a real treat that had so many layers of textures and full flavors each in its own right….

Per Se Beef Poor Boys

T has been very busy this week clearing brush… lots of salmonberry and blackberry bushes that are up to eight feet tall, some a lot more than that.   With all the rain we get I am surprised they are not longer!  T says he wants to take back a couple of feet of ground around the entire yard… a real revelation to me because I know about his aversion to mowing the lawn!  Then in talk I find out he is thinking about buying a riding lawn mower.  Now… It is starting to make a little more sense to me.

He has put in long days with his machete and loppers.   Says once he gets it all down and cleaned up the mower will do the rest.  I can tell that it has been hard work… he is moving a little slower in the evening and sleeping really well at night.

I asked him what he wanted for dinner and his reply was something manly, a hardy meal… but quick and easy.  (I knew the reasoning behind this… I have been making lots of salads and light soups of late because we have been eating such heavy meals.)  That sounds good but what?  I remembered the last of the left over brisket (I was thinking about making a hominy soup with it… next time) in the freezer and decided to make poor boys.  He loves poor boys ever since he was introduced to them in New Orleans a few years ago.

Once I had the brisket thawed out I put it in the steam basket to heat.  I like doing this way because there is always some of the leftover grease that clings to the beef and the steam removes most of it in the heating process.  And two… it leaves it so moist!

I sliced and grilled several onions to top the brisket and while cooking I mixed together some mustard and horseradish for a nice topping with bite.   

I had the baguette nicely toasted in the broiler and then put the brisket on, then piled on lots of grilled onions and added the cheddar cheese and put the whole thing back into the broiler for a few minutes.  Watch it carefully…    now spread on some of the mustard-horseradish mix and the poor boy is ready to eat.

T ate almost the whole thing by himself, I had about a two-inch strip and we had side salads… I have to say the poor boy was really good.  He was happy with the ‘quick-manly-hardy meal,’ which was all that mattered….  

 

Beet, Chard and Peach Salad

This is a full flavored salad that is perfect with a side dish of wild rice.  The mix of sweet and sour and add the slight smoky taste of grilled peaches and red onions makes it delectable to say the least.  It is a bit of work, but quick to put together in the end and well worth the effort.  It seems that Sawsan Chef in disguise and I had the same thoughts in a salad but put together with different blends of flavors, hers looks delicious… take a peek!

Ingredients:

  •        2 medium red beets, trimmed
  •        ½ cup of red wine vinegar
  •        Pinch of sea salt
  •        Cold water to cover

In a sauce pan combine the beets, vinegar, salt and enough cold water to cover the beets by several inches and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat and cook until tender, around 30 to 40 minutes depending on size of beets.  Once the beets have cooled in the cooking liquid you can peel or slip off the outer skin and then slice into ¼ inch slices.

Wash the chard well in a sink full of cold water, I do this two times.  On the larger leaves that have large ribs, I separate and remove the large rib.  Slice the leaves in thin strips.  Mince a couple of cloves of garlic.  Put olive oil (I fried some pancetta in the pan and am using the oil from that.)  in fry pan and once heated start adding chard as it cooks down some add some more until you have it all in the pan.  Once all the chard is in pan sprinkle the garlic on and stir in, I cook the chard stirring occasionally until it is very tender.  This takes only takes a few minutes.

Peal a red onion and slice into ¼ inch slices and mist each side with olive oil.  (I try to have the onions, beets and peaches about the same size.) Halve the peaches and mist the peach halves with olive oil.  Heat your grill and grill onions on both sides until you have grill marks.  Add additional oil to grill to grill the peaches, be careful when you turn to keep them whole.  I had a problem with this, turning too soon and not having enough oil on the grill.  They were not as pretty but tasted wonderful anyway. 

I had some Dill Havarti Cheese that I made little ½ inch cubes for the salad.  There are many cheeses that can be used for this salad… pick one of your favorites.

Vinaigrette:

  •         2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  •         1 tablespoon kalamata olive brine
  •         1 teaspoon honey
  •         ½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano
  •         Pinch of sea salt
  •         Freshly ground black pepper
  •         ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (I was running low so use just a couple of teaspoons… it seemed fine)

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, brine, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.  Gradually add oil, whisking to a thin, steady stream until blended.

I arranged the chard, onions, and beets, peach and topped with a slice of pancetta and added the Dill Havarti Cheese cubes.  I wish I had started with the wild rice on the bottom… but just topped the salad on top of rice after taking the pictures.

We both loved this salad and will do again.  The mix was full of enjoyment and was a dish we relished with each bite….

My mother gave me this recipe and would love to give credit where credit is due… if anyone knows where this recipe came from let me know.  I did a lot of adapting from the directions my Mom gave me.

Excerpts from a Hummingbird Book I Wrote

 

Several years ago after spending countless hours (years) with my Little Winged Ones and reading anything I could get my hands on for information and then taking notes as I surveyed, scrutinized, examined and study them from every aspect one could… I decided to write a little book about the Little Winged Ones. 

I actually wrote the book backwards, doing the conclusion with all the information about them from migration to habitats, the flowers they liked, what kind of water sources they liked to you name it.  I was writing down everything that I saw, heard and read.  I found it quite exhilarating… as much so as the little hummingbirds themselves. 

I am now doing the illustrations for the little book.  I am having a blast doing each one.  I do not care how long it takes me, the time I put into the little book is very precious to me.  In the end whether I sale one copy or give them away it means little to the measure of pleasure they have given me.

The title of the little book is Midnight Nectar… this comes from a special part of this poem that I wrote… the hummingbird characters and personalities are what help set the title.  I do hope that each one of you enjoys the excerpts from the poem and a little from the books conclusions of as much information that I thought a reader would want and could enjoy, for those that asked for me to share sorry it took me so long….

 

Midnight Nectar  

The Little Winged Ones

 

 

I watch in wonderment at the little wings ones, the hummingbird’s flight of play.  Flashing the colors of their gorget, they cast beams of color like a prism in sunrays.  You see them flitting here and there, their iridescence feathers glowing, bright, shimmering, and radiating a mixture of colors as they dart from place to place…

 

The sight of each little winged ones impressive plumage is eye-catching as they put it on display.  All their colors of rufus, greens and blues, purple, and even copper are all blended and fused to see as they captivate.   Gold and orange, and reds dispersed in many different hues its contrast the identity enabler and too by their size and shapes…

 

They flash each their metallic colors as they put on a show, which is entertaining, sometimes comical as they engage with one another in as many ways.  They make musical notes from the exhilarated speed of their little wings with a constant whirling and hovering here, and their flights of speed so swift , look and see it is high, ever so high over there, each  its own everywhere…

 

Watch as the little winged ones ascend high out of sight then rapidly plummets with a “peep” as it promptly levels off just above the ground, then flies away, bright and smart and oh so quick on their uptake.  Amazing acts these little winged ones, what a show as they try to assert, contend, and outperform on a dare, which one will succeed, they are all very competitive…

All this takes lots of nectar the sweet juices is their food, their fuel.  Sit and watch as they linger at their chosen flowers all of pure raw flavor.   Sipping nectar for their flights and their games of play, watch it now as it makes the chase; it tags, and then it quickly flies away…

 

The hummingbirds I write about are those that spend spring, summer and the part of autumn here in the Pacific Northwest.  Four species that call our home theirs for part of the year are the Anna’s, Allen’s, Rufus, and the littlest of all the Calliope’s.  A few of the Anna’s Hummingbirds live here at Hummingbird Hollow year round.  They are very adaptive at surviving the winters that can get very cold, here in Washington State where the temperature can sometimes be in the 20’s degrees and at times a lot colder.  To survive the night, they fluff up their feathers and adjust their thermostats, decreasing their body temperatures by half and reducing their heart rate which can range can be up to 1260 beats per minute.  Their high body temperature of…

 

I observed for the first time several years ago a new, performance that was put on by a hummingbird during the hottest part of the summer.  The lawns were all golden brown from lack of rain.  While I was relaxing in the shade, I watched a hummingbird land on a slight slope where the wild grass was dried and the blades were all laying one on top of another on the ground.  The hummingbird landed and then commenced to lie down and settled on its belly in the dried grass as it spread it wings wide on both sides.  It laid there sunning itself for a long period time.  I was not only surprised but it intrigued me so.  I had never to date read anything on this behavior.  I thought maybe it was a fluke, but again I was thrilled to watch and scrutinize this same behavior on several occasions over the years after the fact of what seems to be a routine occurrence…

The little hummers never bore me, quite the opposite.  My interest and need to know more has never diminished, if anything I am like a sponge and try to gather and saturate my mind with as much information as I can.   I never tire of watching and studying them; I am thrilled beyond words at their courage to face anything head on.    They entertained me with all their antics and their pure stamina, with their staying power to weather any storm, and their determination in all of their actions.  They have never let me down.  This information is from the four species that live here at Hummingbird Hallow…

Hummingbirds need twice their weight in water every day.  They will drink the dew collected in leaves, or on grass and flowers.  Customary water sources such as birdbaths and in ground mini ponds and Koi Gardens will have to be specially adapted for the needs of the hummingbirds.  The hummingbirds and songbirds require very shallow water for drinking and bathing.  They do not like more than an inch and would prefer even less than that.  The birdbaths and such that we provide for other birds will need to be adapted for the little birds use.  You can add rocks, or you can lay a layer of sand for the correct water depth needed, even too use some small pebbles so they can enjoy and make use of your different water sources.   If need they will use the birdbaths and such but on a limited basic, by letting the tips of their wings dip in the water as they drop down and whiz across the water.   They two will dip their bills in for a quick drink.  Keep the birdbaths clean and give them fresh water every day during the hot summer months.  Here in the northwest even though we get lots of rain, I clean the birdbaths every day.  You want them sterile, you do not want them to pass on any disease(s) to each other and too there are many other birds that use the same water sources.  If you decide to put out feeders for the birds, be sure to keep them sterile, keep nectar fresh and put out only enough seeds for a few hours, we add to the feeders we use a couple of times a day.   Do not use any chemicals of any kind at any time… 

They love to play in the mist from water fountains. They will all join in and chase after one another and the mist drops.  There is much enjoyment to be had if you just take the time to watch them in all their energetic and enthusiastic high-spirited flights of play.  Always chasing one another, raindrops, water mist from fountains, even water from lawn and garden hoses (they love it when you are watering and do not mind that you are right there holding the hose.)  Remember to watch them playing chase with the snowflakes in the wintertime.  They seem never to exhaust their energies in whatever, they find to amuse themselves…

I hope you enjoyed the excerpts that I have chosen.  The book has not been edited at this point, if anyone knows a good book editor let me know… I need one bad….

(All of the photos I picked for this post are of Female Rufus Hummingbirds.)

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