RaeDi at Hummingbird Hollow

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

Tag: lemon

Asparagus Pizza… Yearning for Spring

Decided that spring could not get here soon enough… but a little spring for dinner would be perfect.  A spring pizza was in order.  The crust was easy… I bought pizza dough at  Central Market already made for me.  I wanted dinner to be  very easy and it was!  Put a little hollandaise sauce on and threw on some veggies…  steamed spinach (pat between paper towels to get as much moisture out,) about 1/2 cup of steamed (partially done…) brussel sprout leaves, some cherry tomatoes, few thin slices of onion and the first asparagus (partially steamed) of the year and it was so delicious… added some different cheeses and a few herbs and she was ready before we knew it.

I was starved and kept peeking into the oven…

It was finally done!

Look at it, all the blends tasted so delicious!

I want spring to come so bad… I have been going through some of my photos that I have taken in my gardens for several seasons.  I am going to share a few of the flower photographs over the next weeks… the real signatures of the summer months with you.  Maybe just maybe it will quicken the approach of the season?

A Zen Saying:  Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.  T reminded me as I was talking about spring…  he was thinking out loud about the grass would need mowing!

I will start with my favorite the hydrangea… they seem so complex to me.  As a child I thought of them as big snowballs… now they have so many varieties… my favorite is called the ‘Sea Breeze.’  Is she not lovely?  And who could not resist the daisy? I hope you enjoy my garden pictures and I have included our little raccoon that makes regular visits I call him  ‘Robber’….

Digital pictures I did of my bleeding hearts… how many like digital art… I am still deciding!

Spinach, Cherry Tomato, Feta Bruschetta with Blackberry Balsamic Syrup

 

One of the things I dearly love to start a dinner party with is Bruschetta, it always brings with it conversation.  Happy conversation with lots of explicatory expressions and too the added wonderful ooh’s and aah’s!  It makes me feel so good!   The variables are as many as you could possibly think up and then add some more.  It is one of those things that goes well with wine and most any kind of drink before dinner.  It is also good as part of a dinner, I love it with a salad or soup… it is as endless of what you can serve this with as the variables of how to make Bruschetta.  I also have been known to eat just Bruschetta when I do not have an appetite, almost always it is just what I needed.

Lemon-Garlic-Herb Dressing   

     Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon mix of chopped basil, oregano, thyme (this can be one or a mix of all three or even other herbs… your choice I prefer to use fresh, but you can use dried, just remember it does not take as much they are more intense in flavor!)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice (I go very light on the lemon mix because of using the blackberry balsamic vinegar later, just a hint)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Flake Sea Salt to taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

I put all the ingredients in a pint size jar with a tight-fitted lid and shake thoroughly.  I usually have some in the refrigerator or make this the morning I need.

I learned something as a young bride.  I had no idea about herbs… fresh or died.  I was finally enlightened… if you did not know about how much seasoning  to add…  then to your mix add just a pinch and taste, you will know if you want more or not and add a pinch more and taste just remember you can never take away a herb once it is added.  I did a lot of pinching and tasting those first few years!

For the spinach, tomato, red onion topping:

       Ingredients:

  • About 2 cups of assorted cherry tomatoes – I used red and yellow that I had on hand, halved (I quarter if large)
  • ½ small red onion sliced in ½ inch length about half that width
  • Fresh Basil or Oregano, Thyme (your choice, or even something else)
  • One loaf of Ciabatta Bread (I like to cut about 3-4 inch squares and then cut diagonally
  • One garlic clove peeled and halved
  • 3 Cups of steamed (de-stemmed) spinach
  • Feta Cheese
  • Black Berry Balsamic Vinegar

 

Black Berry Balsamic Vinegar

     Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar

Put vinegars in sauce pot and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and reduce by half.  It should have a nice thickened-syrup consistency, will lightly cover a spoon.  Let cool and pour into a cruet or small pitcher.  You could also use one of the plastic dispensing bottles (it makes it easier-less messy to drizzle the blackberry balsamic Syrup on the Bruschetta.)

Combine the halved-quartered tomatoes, red onion, and drizzle with the Lemon-Garlic Herb Dressing, set aside and let set at room temperature. You can make this in the morning, just refrigerate.  Preheat oven to 400˚when you are ready to bake-roast the tomatoes and red onions.

Steam the spinach.  Get the Ciabatta Bread sliced and take the halved garlic and rub on the top of each slice of bread.  Place the tomato mix on jelly roll pan, I sprinkle a little of the herb mix and just a pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper on the tomato mix (does not take much you have already added to the tomatoes with the herb dressing.)  Place in oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the skinned are starting to get browned and blistered, take out of oven.

Dip the jelly roll pan until the tomato-juices mixed with the Lemon-Garlic Herb Dressing has went to the one end of the pan.  I set the tomato end of the pan at an angle on a folded pot holder so the juices kind of stay at the other end of pan.  I then take a pastry brush and brush each piece of the garlic-ciabatta bread with the tomato juices.  Place bread under broiler until the bread is nicely toasted.  Lay jelly roll pan with tomato mix flat so the juices blend again.

Put a layer of steamed spinach on the toasted ciabatta bread.  Top with some of the roasted tomatoes and onions.  Scatter some of the feta cheese on top, and then drizzle each with blackberry balsamic syrup.

Roasting the tomatoes concentrates their flavor and intensifies the taste with the lemon-garlic herb dressing adding to that blend the flavor of the feta cheese and the topper of all this is the blackberry balsamic vinegar, what a wonderful mix, united it is a fusion of nothing but pure ecstasy… definitely over the top!  It makes such a wonderful pairing of the whole and makes it so easy to savor every bite… it wakens up your taste buds from first bite.  This is something that I love to serve knowing full well that the instant my guests start eating I can see on their faces what they think of this Bruschetta….

Baked Halibut Cheeks in Lemon Butter

Living here in the Northwest on the waterfront has its advantages.  Lots of fishing and too wonderful walks on the beach, being a professional beach comber (I love being the first one on the beach after a good ocean churning storm; you never know what you will find.)

Then there is the seafood that you catch, fresh as can be, hook it and in the pan in a few short minutes.  Too you get to know lots of Captains of their own fishing vessels.  T has been around the fishing business forever.  His first job was fishing in the Alaskan waters.  Salmon, Halibut, Crabs, Shrimp if it could be caught he could do it.  As a child he would fish and sell his catch door to door (after his Mother got first choice) to make his pocket change.

One of our friends owns his own Halibut Fishing Boat and each year at the end of season we get several pounds of Halibut Cheeks.  What a wonderful delicacy that melts in your mouth.  We got the call yesterday…  they had just came in from their boat out of Alaska and were on the ferry coming over the sound and we could meet them and get our cheeks, T was off quicker than lighting.  When he got home I could not believe how generous they had been and each one was just beautiful.  We will get lots of wonderful meals with this special package.  We sure are blessed!

Six pounds plus of halibut cheeks, we knew what we wanted to do with them for dinner, bake them in lemon butter… I could taste them as we were getting them in their packets for baking.  I could not wait to sit down and take the first bite.  How many of you have had Halibut Cheeks?  They are so tender and delicious they have an elegance flare with a modishness about them.

Laying there in the rich butter sauce with the parsley floating, they look luscious.  I wanted to set the table with the bone china, but decided against it, the cleanup is so much more and I just wanted to sit down and enjoy our cheeks.

This is so simple to make.  Make a foil pack that will fit the halibut cheeks you are baking.  Rinse and pat dry the cheeks (I love saying that!)  Place cheeks in the pack, one single row, I put the four cheeks and four pats of butter (about 2 tablespoons total,) a pinch of garlic powder, pinch of onion powder, some parsley flakes, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  I drizzled the juice of one lemon all over the tops of the cheeks.   I put about two tablespoons of water in the pack and sealed the pack shut by folding and pleating the foil closed.

I baked them in a 380˚ oven for about 20-25 minutes.  When I opened the packs lots of steam (be careful) came out, that I have been told means they are done.  They were so tender and looked mouth-watering.  I had everything ready all we had to do was serve ourselves.   Not shabby eating for a Midwestern girl who knew very little about seafood when I moved to the coast.  (just a few years ago!!)

They were just as good as I remembered.  I know you can get these at the fish market and even at some of the food stores, but those given to us straight from Alaska seem so very special.  Thank you James they were as wonderful as usual.   T is going to put in an order for a couple of Halibut heads adds for next year’s order.

With the cheeks we had twice baked potatoes with apple smoked Gruyère cheese  (give recipe at later date) and a wonderful fresh, crisp salad.  The whole meal was such a treat.  I too made a little extra butter with lemon to dip our cheeks in!  We truly are blessed!

We have a special freezer jar in the freezer that we put all halibut juices in, those leftovers after baking.  Once we get a couple of cups we are ready to make a nice pot of fish stew and use it with tomatoes as a base.  It is also good for making a nice white sauce to put over toasted bread or even biscuits with pieces of white fish and a few peas and such… good for any meal!  It is amazing….

Baked Alaska… No Baked Salmon

                            

Yesterday was the opening day of the Salmon season. T and all of his old gizzer friends joined together for their annual opening day of salmon fishing here at Point no Point.   Actually they are a pretty good lot; a complete mix of ‘stereo typed men,’ that can be basically pigeonholed in a category of ‘old men with nothing to do with their hands,’ once retirement sits in.  They are a lot of very hard workers with good character who have earned their retirement.  I love to tease T about his misfit group of ole gizzers.  T just laughs… this community is blessed to have each one of these ole grey-headed, receding (balding) hairline souls.  T actually retired early in life, he says to take care of me, so you know T is ‘several’ years older than me, and he thinks wiser, we know better… we will just let him think that.

Take a look at the teeth.  This twenty-one pound Salmon was delicious….

One of my children years ago thought that salmon was only an Alaskan fish, anytime we had salmon on the menu it was always called “Baked Alaska.”  I still think of that today whenever we have salmon.   I remember that I even made “Baked Alaska” one time to show this child what it truly was, he was impressed, but it did not stop him from calling our “Baked Salmon” “Baked Alaska.”   One of those heartfelt memories from times past that I will not let go of.

As I put the salmon in the oven this evening I was thinking of the “Baked Alaska” wishing a little that I could return for just a few hours to be with the children when they were small.  I too think of all the things I told them that they believed… me knowing that when they got older and ‘wiser’ with more experience with the world they would realize Mom pulled their legs on more than one occasion.  I wonder if this is one of them, I will have to ask said child if he still calls salmon “Baked Alaska.”

This piece of fish came off a twenty-one pound beauty.  The salmon are so beautiful on one hand, but if you take a good look at them they seem to be a little creepy too (jeezzz!) with the jaw line changing rapidly as it reaches its destination.  These fish have survived so many things on their journey in the few short years since their parents spawned in the creek beds here in our area.  They made their way down stream into the mouth or estuary of the Puget Sound (adapting to the salt water) then off to the great Pacific Ocean for the beginning of their ocean ionic travels before returning.

I have an enormous fascination of the migration of birds and fish.  The distance they travel and the amount of time it takes each on their journey is mind-blowing to say the least.   I too will be migrating from here to the south each fall and home again each spring, I know how it is done, I have been studying the migration patterns of all be it with wings, fins or even two-footers (cotton tops) that follow good weather.

I love the fragrance of salmon when it is almost done baking.  It draws you in; you can taste the flavor and see the beauty of the brilliant red meat.  The King Salmon is my favorite.   I like the Silver Salmon and as for the rest they do not agree with my pallet, for reasons unknown.  T brings home as many King Salmon as he is allowed by gaming laws followed by the Silver.  The season this year is from July to November (around six weeks for the king salmon.)  He will bring home a lot of the delicious red meat for canning, freezing, smoking and his favorite (not mine, again no taste for) pickled salmon.  Our pantry will have enough canned salmon to feed a family though to next season and add to that the freezer of salmon so full you cannot get another piece of fish in there no matter how hard you try.  I get to the point of saying, “No more salmon, we have enough fish for us and everyone we know!”  But I too know how blessed we truly are to have this healthy fish right at our backdoor.

I love my salmon baked with as little garnish as possible.  I line a baking dish with aluminum foil.  I like to have the salmon cut into serving size pieces and then coat each piece with olive oil.   (T is so good to me; he always debones all fish when cleaning.)  Place the fish into the lined baking dish.  I put some sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste on each piece of the salmon.  I sprinkle a little parsley on each  and  add just a pinch of powdered garlic to the mix  (you do not want to overpower the little fishes with the garlic, just a tiny note of garlic is all you want.)  I then slice a Georgia Vandalia Sweet Onion (while in season or Washington State Walla Walla Sweet Onion) into thin slices and put one slice on each piece of salmon.  Normally I will slice lemons and place them on the salmon too, but this time I only had one and  that was just enough for us to drizzle a little on top of our baked salmon.  I would have used lemon pepper but out of that too… I think I need a major trip to the market.

I fold over and crease and pleat together the sides of the foil to completely seal the aluminum foil so that none of the steam can escape.  I bake it at 385˚ degrees for around 30 (plus) minutes, it depends on how thick the slices of fish are, and ours were over an inch thick.  I remember being told when learning how to bake fish that when you checked to see if it was done, if a lot of steam comes out when you first open the foil the meat is done.  For me that has always been true.

I made a green salad as a side and had pomegranate balsamic, olive oil and I cubed some Havarti cheese with Dill that was a perfect mix with the salmon.  I made a huge dish of fresh fruit for after dinner.  It had big fresh Washington State Bing Cherries, sliced strawberries, red and white grapes, watermelon, and cantaloupe.     It was as refreshing and delicious as it was beautiful.

Tonight we had a wonderful dinner and an added bonus it was very healthy….

I too got four salmon patties made from the left-overs.  This was just a ‘small’ portion of the fish in the picture.  I cannot even imagine right now how many meals and too how many it will feed over the entirety of this fish, lots.  We will have heated patties with soft-boiled eggs for breakfast.  Salmon-Eggs Benedict… good!   Then will probably freeze the other two to have as salmon sandwiches cold one day for lunch.  It is a wonder what all you can make with salmon…..

Bing Cherry Preserves’ from Washington State

 

It is Bing cherry time here in Washington State.  I found that Central Market had their Dark Bing Cherries in and I headed over immediately to get ten pounds of the delicious little fruits.   I was so excited, these are my favorite cherries.  I would be making not only regular Cherry Preserves but will use my Spiked Cherry Preserves recipe too.  I am going to make some pies… I cannot wait.  The Bing Cherries will make the best of all preserves and pies, with the natural color of jewels.  I could already taste them.

When I got to the market, I was so excited; theses Bing Cherries were the largest cherries I had seen in years.  They were a deep color, meaning very sweet and juicy.  They were perfect for my preserves’ and pies; the color would be beautiful when finished.

As soon as I got home, I got the jars readied.  Wash them good with hot detergent water and rinse good.  Put in large pot and cover with water once it comes to boil you boil for fifteen minutes, leave in hot water until needed.

We started pitting out the cherries for the first batch of preserves.  I am becoming old hat at making the preserves, hard to believe I has made my first marmalade in the spring, I have come a long ways.  Cannot wait for blackberry season… then we can go out and pick on our own, blackberries grow wild here and you have as many as you want right there for the picking.

I used five pounds for each batch of perseveres,  I brought probably closer to fourteen pounds of cherries, decided the four extra would be for pies and eating as fresh fruit.  They are so healthy for you… they are!

Bing Cherry Preserves

          Ingredients:

  • Five Pounds of Pitted Bing Cherries, cut several cups worth of cherries into halves
  • Two cups of Water
  • About four cups of sugar (these were very sweet on their own)
  • ½ cup Lemon Juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, my recipe called for more, but I like a little less, you too can add a little cloves if you like
  • 1 box pectin (I did not need the whole box, about half)

 

Once you have the cherries washed good and pitted put into a heavy bottom pan add the sugar, lemon juice and water.   Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until they start to boil, stir until all the sugar dissolved.  Once they are boiling hard I turned the heat down some and cooked for 30 minutes. Stirring often and using a spoon skim off the foam as it cooks.  I turn the heat back up to med-high then once the mixture starts to thicken some you want to stir constantly, this all happens pretty quickly.   This is the time to add the pectin if you are going to use, I only add a little bit at a time and watch it careful.  You can use the frozen plate method if you want at this stage.

Once you have the mixture the consistency you want ladle the hot jam into the hot jars, leaving around ½” headspace.  Wash off the rim of each jar, making sure they are clean, so they can seal.   Then adjust the two-piece caps (cap and ring.)  Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner, bring your water to a boil then add the jars making sure that they do not touch.   I leave at least an inch on all sides of jars and side of pot.

When the fifteen minutes is up I place each jar on a tea towel (folded in thirds) covered wood cutting board.  Within in minutes all jars should have popped meaning they were sealed.  Once they have cooled down completely I put them in my pantry for future use.  Okay we open one the next morning for our hot biscuits, butter and some Bing cherry preserves and they were to die for….

I used the same recipe that I used a while back making the Spiked Cherry Preserves’, I felt that I could not improve on the flavor.  We had about a ½ of the Spiked Cherry Preserves’’ left and I made some Angel Biscuits and it was just as good, if not better (Bing Cherries) than the preserve’s I made earlier in the spring…..

Jalapeños –Spiked Cherry Preserves

When you are doing the jalapeños leave the seeds they will give the preserves a little extra heat. The preserves are good as a spread on sandwiches, serve them as a sauce with roasted and grilled meats, or you can use them on appetizers with all sorts of crackers and cheeses and too with bread, toast, warm biscuits, and on simple bread and butter. There are so many uses with preserves’; I think I have used them for just about everything and have always enjoyed them to the fullest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 ½ cups Water
  • 1 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Dash of Ground Cloves
  • Dash of Ground Nutmeg
  • Dash of Salt
  • Dash for Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 4  Peppers,  Jalapeños 3 peppers sliced, 1 pepper diced small
  • 2 pounds Sweet Cherries, pitted, 1 cup diced small
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and small cubed
  • 1 box of Pectin

Once I stemmed and pitted all the cherries, I then stemmed and sliced into thin slices the 3 jalapeños Peppers, I put the cup of cherries and 1 stemmed (leave the seeds they are extra flavor-heat to the preserves) jalapeño in the processor and pulsed several times until they were chopped up, you do not want to puree them, nice small pieces. Peel, core and chop the apple into ½ inch or so pieces.

As I finished with the cherries I put them in a big stainless steel bowl and then added the sliced peppers, the chopped pepper and cherries and then the cubed apple. I added the sugar and dried seasonings to the cherry mix and stirred them well. I measured the liquids into another stainless bowl and then poured into the mix, I stirred everything good. I placed a platter large enough to cover the top of the stainless bowl and put it in refrigerator. Every once in a while when passing through the kitchen I would take the bowl out of the refrigerator and give it a good stir. I then waited until the next day to finish up on the cherry preserves.

When I got up the next morning the first thing I did was get the bowl of cherry mixture out of the refrig and gave it a stir (they already smelled so good) and left it on the counter. I knew they could wait while I finished some things I needed done first so there would be no interruptions.

You do not have to store in refrigerator overnight, you can go right to the steps of putting in the pot and start to boil. *

If you are going to use the cold plate to test the thickness of the preserves the ‘wrinkle test’ to see if they are ready to jar, put the plate in the freezer now. You can read about this method towards the bottom of this page.

Once I got back to my cherries I put the mixture in a large heavy bottom pot and turned the heat on. I brought the mixture to a full boil, cooked stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. I placed the candy thermometer in the mixture and continued to cook and frequently stirred until the temperature registered 220 degrees, it took about 30 to 40 minutes. While it was cooking I skimmed off the foam that floated to the surface. I added the box of pectin to the pot around the thirty minute mark. You will want to watch it close and keep stirring at this point. My preserves set within minutes of adding the box of pectin.

Some folks use pectin, some don’t. Some do not think it is good, but pectin is all natural, just like adding green apple to the mix to help thicken the jams and preserves. Some will use a jar of apple jelly instead of the pectin to do the same job, it is all in who is making the preserves.

If you want to make them without the pectin then proceed with these directions:

When the temperature reaches the 220 degrees on the thermometer you can perform a gel test. Place a small plate in the freezer before you start, when doing the test get the cold plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of the preserves on it. Return it to the freezer and wait one minute. Remove the plate and gently nudge the edge of the preserve juice with one finger. If the preserve is ready, it will wrinkle slightly when pushed; if it is not ready it will be too thin to wrinkle you will need to cook a few more minutes and repeat the gel test until you get the gel to wrinkle.

Once the preserves have jelled properly; remove the pot from the heat. I had my sterile jars waiting and had the canning funnel in the first jar. I ladled the preserves into the jar to within ½ inch from the top. I removed the funnel and put on the next jar and repeated until I had used up all the preserves. Once I had all the preserves in the jars I used a clean damp cloth and went around each rim to make sure the rim was clean and placed a lid on the jar and then screwed on the band tight and then turned just until it loose. All the jar were readied, I used the canning tongs and placed each jar into the boiling water making sure that they did not touch each other or the side of the pot… about one inch apart.

I raised the heat to high, covered the pot and brought the water to a boil. You may have to turn the heat down some or crack the lid when the water gets boiling hard. I processed the jars in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Using the canning tongs, I then transferred the jars to a wooden board (I used my thick cutting board) covered with a tea towel and cool completely.

Let jars stand 24 hours. Check cooled jars for slight indentation in the lid that will indicate a vacuum seal. Store the jars in a cool, dark place up to one year. Around here they will not last that long.

The color of the Bing Preserves’ is such a jewel tone compared with the early spring Rainier Cherry.  The end product in my opinion the Bing wins hands down….

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