Improvisation and trusting your gut

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One of the things I think I am good at is improvising in the kitchen.  Except for baking where I tend to rely on recipes or canning where I fear I may kill someone if I don’t respect the chemistry, I usually don’t follow recipes.  I might read them for inspiration, especially for techniques I’m not as familiar with (making a soufflé, as an example), but generally I’m not using them.  I did a lot in the early days and I think you can teach yourself to cook by just picking a recipe or two and making it several times.  Eventually you’ll tweak it.  You’ll either be out of an ingredient and need to get crafty, or, like me, you might be living in Japan and need to get creative to come up with items to approximate the comfort foods of home.

Japan gave me several gifts when it comes to food.  One is it eliminated my obsession with butter and cheese on veggies and soy sauce on plain rice.  I am a much cleaner eater after living in Japan.  Two, it got me away from an “it’s got to be piping hot” before you eat it expectation.  When we went to big parties, most of the party food was on the table long before we got there.  Normally hot food was still delicious at room temperature.  Even in our boxed lunches, it was not uncommon to have room temperature spaghetti or chicken.  Even fish and rice.  It was delicious and sometimes the flavor was even more pronounced as the food was a bit cooler.  Sure, some things were always served super hot, but it was no tragedy when they weren’t.  The third gift was creativity.  If I couldn’t find zucchini, I could sub in a thin cucumber.  If I couldn’t find cheese, I could find tons of other interesting and beautiful veggies to experiment with instead.  And if I did find cheddar cheese or taco shells or something else familiar, I had the good sense to splurge and indulge to keep myself going.  And then back to experimentation.  Living in a small town, I did a lot of cooking for myself.   Pre-internet and google, I asked my mom to send me a basic U.S. cookbook and I set to teaching myself how to make things (like spaghetti sauce) that I normally would have bought in a jar before.  I really began to love cooking (I always liked it) and to view it as a time for self-care and a way to be self sufficient.

I began to trust my abilities.  My instincts.  My resources to “rescue” items that might not turn out right right away.  I think cooks should use their instincts in the kitchen.  Trust your experience to know what will and won’t taste good together.

Yesterday I was feeling under the weather and thought it might be a good idea to make a pot of soup.   I knew I had a bunch of veggies that would lend themselves to a lazy Sunday soup — chard, carrots, potatoes, an onion.   I know not everyone is a fan of greens, but when I have them and items like carrots and onion, I think minestrone — a blend of chicken broth and tomatoes for the soup base.  So, that’s where I was headed, sort of.  I didn’t want to use pasta like a minestrone or beans, but I wanted the veggie and broth elements.

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I started with a big pot.  Into it I tossed in the diced onion, one potato, some carrots, and some garlic.  I could have stopped there, but since I know fennel is good with tomato and Italian seasonings, I cut up a fennel bulb that I had.  I had a kohlrabi which tastes a bit to me like cabbage so I peeled it and cut it up too since that flavor would enhance what I was doing.  I had beets, but knowing their flavor would not be enhanced by tomato, I left them in the veggie bin.  We had a lot of leek and garlic scales from the farm but they were starting to get larger in diameter and not so tender, so I chopped up the last of them and added them as well so they could lend their subtle leek and garlic goodness as they softened in the mix.  Last, I added the chopped up chard stems (leaves saved to go in later).  I was in business!

After sautéing for a bit, I added in a container of chicken broth and one jar of my home canned tomatoes (a 14 oz can from the store would have been fine).

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After bringing it to a boil and reducing it to simmer, I added oregano and thyme, my two favorite dry herbs “by eye” to the developing soup.  I left it to simmer about 10 minutes to soften up the carrot, potato, fennel, kohlrabi and onion.

While the soup was cooking, I washed the chard leaves and set them aside with some chopped parsley we had gotten from the CSA this week.  I went to my garden to gather some fresh herbs:  oregano, oregano thyme, and thyme.  These would all go in towards the end along with snap peas (so they’d stay crunchy!).

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When the veggies in the pot were getting tender, I added in the chard and parsley.

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That cooked just a few minutes to soften the chard.  Once I thought it was ready, I did the critical taste for seasoning and added a bit of salt and pepper.

Last, I added the fresh oregano and thyme and the snap peas.

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I didn’t want the peas to cook.  Just get a bit warm and a tiny bit soft.  I basically brought the soup back to a boil and the pulled it off the heat to serve.

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Put into big white bowls, it was both lovely and delicious.  And soul satisfying.  I was feeling a lot better after the soup than before, but I also felt good to once again trust my instincts to come up with something good. Not all experiments are a success, but as you cook more, more and more of them are.

Blueberry chutney (a.k.a. a good excuse to hang out with a friend!)

Having a flat of blueberries (12 pints!) means feeling flush, abundant, and ready for some canning or preserving of berries in some way.  A person in my reading group gave me a recipe years ago for a blueberry chutney.  I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally, but it’s really great.  It’s good on chicken.  On salmon.  On a salty brat.  The recipe suggests stirring it into yogurt, but that’s never seemed particularly ideal to me.

I made the chutney a couple of summers for the first time when I was learning how to can.  I gave some to a friend and it’s probably one of her favorite things.  When we found ourselves with lots of blueberries, she suggested we get together to can some together and make a huge batch of it that we could share.  I’ve had mixed luck in doubling batches of recipes when I can, so instead of making a double batch, we made two batches in two pots.  We started with “hers” and then began cooking mine as her jars were in the water bath canning.  By the time all of her jars were canned, my chutney was just getting ready.  I had a bunch of an apple vinegar flavored with lingonberry, so for my batch, I subbed that in for the straight red wine vinegar.  It made my finished product a little tart, but it’s a nice addition.

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It begins with a lovely blend of spices:  mustard seeds, lemon zest, brown sugar, salt, clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne and cayenne.  Add onion, raisins, maple syrup, red wine vinegar, a tart apple, and blueberries and let time do the work. In about 45 to 60 minutes, you end up with this amazing concoction that smells so good and is incredibly delicious.

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It begins as a subtle but very vinergar-y smelling mess.  Over time, the blueberries and the apple break down and the onion mellows.  The mustard seeds begin to assert themselves a bit.  You start to get hits of the various spices.  As you stir it occasionally to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pan, it leaps up to tickle your nose.  It’s fun to make because it plays with you the whole time you’re cooking.

We canned what we produced.  It only makes a handful of jars for each batch.  The best part is there’s always too much to get rid of but not enough for a full jar, so you get the delight of eating some of what you’ve created right away since you can’t can it if the jar isn’t full.

So good.  Oregon blueberry love.

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Here’s the full recipe (simplified):

  • 5 cups of blueberries
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and chopped (they say grated, but I don’t find that necessary)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (they call for dark, but we used a mix of light and dark)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 T mustard seeds (we used half yellow, half brown since this is what I had)
  • 1 T lemon zest (I just zested one lemon for each batch and added the juice of 1/2 lemon to each for flavor)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ginger
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. cayenne

You basically put everything into a big pot, bring it to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Our first batch might have been closer to 6 cups of berries so it took the full hour to reduce.  The second batch was 5 cups and was ready at just before 45 minutes.  It also depends on how hot your simmer is.  Be sure to keep an eye on it.  There’s a moment when it goes thick where it’d be very easy to scorch the bottom and ruin a whole batch.  It’s as if one minute there’s so much liquid and the next minute it’s all gone.  You’re looking for a “scoop-able” consistency — not totally thick, but not too runny.  It will thicken up as it cools.

If you’re going to can it, you put it in sterilized jars and into the water bath for 10 minutes.  I always then leave the jars in the hot water without heat for 5 minutes more before removing them to cool.  If any jars fail to seal, reprocess for another 10 minutes.  If you forget to check and notice a lid pops when pressed down, it means it didn’t seal.  You can still eat it, but you need to refrigerate it right away and get to eating it in a few weeks.  The canned jars can keep in a cool, dry place for at least a year, but you’ll be lucky if you don’t devour it all during the summer months of BBQ bliss!  My mouth is watering right now!

If your end product is too thick, you can always thin it as a pan sauce with any liquid and bits left in a pan after cooking meat.  Maybe add a little wine or chicken broth if you need more liquid.  It’s a very satisfying flavor profile for cooked meats of all kinds.  It’s a wonderful replacement for ketchup on a cooked brat, especially one with the char of a BBQ!  It can stand up to some extra mustard given the mustard seeds in the chutney.

If anybody recognizes this recipe and knows the source, please let me know!  Whomever came up with it, you have my GRATITUDE!

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I had to have it immediately with crispy potatoes and brat!

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Second try…

A couple of weeks ago I had a less than successful experience with a buttermilk cake with strawberries.  It’s a recipe originally intended for raspberries from the epicurious site, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Raspberry-Buttermilk-Cake-353616.  The first time I made it, I trusted the recipe and cooked it for the minimum time.  It was still edible, but not awesome.

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Having gotten a flat of blueberries, I thought I’d give it another try.  This time I kept an eye on it and took it out at about 21 or 22 minutes.  Hard to believe that would make the difference, but it did.  This time it was much better.  It’s a keeper, but a good reminder that at least in my oven, I have to go lower than most recipes.

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No longer a “near disaster” for me…

 

 

 

Making breakfast a celebration of self

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My typical breakfast is a couple of pieces of toast.  Maybe yogurt.  Banana.  A smoothie now and then.  It’s usually a weekend or a vacation where something more “adventurous” appears.

I had a pineapple sitting on my counter ripening, but there was a part of me that thought, oh it’s such a hassle to cut it up and “prepare” it.  Of course, it’s not, but it’s funny how our brains undermine our desire to do good things for ourselves when it comes to food.  I’ll just pick up something fast rather than tearing some lettuce and making a salad.  I’ll order a pizza instead of making myself a simple, but satisfying dinner.  Sadly, we do it all the time.

Yesterday I woke up looking at that pineapple again.  I had to give myself a good stern talking to:  come on, just cut it up and move on. So I did.  In the time it took to cut it up, I was inspired to make some eggs and toast to go with it.  I had had the good thought of making iced coffee the night before.  By the time the toast was done, I had a feast.  And it didn’t take any time at all.

As I sat down to eat it, I have to admit I felt a little better than if I had blown it off to go get something easier, probably of the donut variety. Satisfied.  And inspired to keep countering those voices in my head that try to talk me out of making just a little effort in my kitchen.

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Recipe. What recipe?

Part of the impetus for this blog was that I was probably posting way too many food photos to Fbook and Instagram.  I’ve always loved cooking and I’m doing it a lot for myself and to share with others.  On the days when I can’t cook for my family or friends, posting the pics seemed like a way to share with people.

It’s probably irritating to some people.  I like people’s food posts, but what do I know?  I get inspired to see what others are up to in their kitchens or out at restaurants.

My mom is an avid reader of cookbooks and has always enjoyed reading recipes and cookbooks for recipes she will never make.  I, too, look at several food blogs regularly.  I used to print recipes all the time and then they’d just collect dust somewhere in my house.  I’ve learned so I don’t print, but I still save a lot of recipes to my computer “just in case.”  You never know when you’ll need an idea or a little inspiration.   Day to day, most of my cooking is just me in my kitchen messing around to see what develops.

Except baking.  For baking, I’ve always used recipes.  Maybe it’s the chemistry.  The ratios.  I know enough to know that I do not have a clue when it comes to baking.  I’m not one of those baking geniuses that can just throw things together and it comes out great.  If I’m baking, I’m going to someone’s recipe.  I might tweak it.  But I have a basis from which I’m working.

More controversial than posting your food photos?  Gwyneth Paltrow.  She’s been saying a lot of nonsense lately, but I guess we’re all skewed by our own lives.  I get her “goop” newsletter but most of the time I’m deleting it, knowing that I’m not ever going to visit the restaurants and hotels she mentions.  She does it in a way I don’t find accessible or particularly fun.  But even she can come up with a winner now and then.

Enter apple cake.  A specific apple cake recipe from Tamra Davis, a woman Gwyneth interviewed for the newsletter back in the late winter/early spring.  I forget.  I can’t really tell you anything about the interview other than at the very end there was an apple cake recipe that seemed super easy, super yummy.

A simple apple cake.  Loaded with chunks of apple from two apples.  Nuts of your choice – did it with pecans and with walnuts.  The simplest batter.  Almost nothing to go wrong.

I made a simple post to Fbook:

 

February 23

I wish you could smell this!! My kitchen smells sooooo good. Deliciously simple apple cake to take to a friend’s dinner, but I really want some NOW!

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It got lots of traction on Fbook.  Lots of likes.  Several requests for the recipe.  I was surprised that something so simple could resonate with so many people.  Lots of people seemed to think it might be good.

I made it several more times.  Took it to parties and meetings.  It’s good for dessert.  It’s suitable for breakfast.  Everyone seemed to really love it.

So, if you’re a timid baker, this might be the recipe for you.  I think the “goop” link may have been removed.  When possible, I like to send folks back to the source, but since it seems to be gone, here it is:

TIME: 1 hour approx. including baking time

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ stick or 2 ounces butter, melted
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups chopped apples (or two large apples)
  • ¾ to 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your baking dish. Mix the sugar, butter, applesauce and egg together with a hand mixer. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Blend the wet and dry ingredients and then add the apples and walnuts. Pour into baking dish and bake for 30 to 50 minutes (depending on your pan and oven temp) or until knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

*****

My advice on the recipe:  be sure to check it at the lowest time and then keep an eye on it.  In my oven, it cooked in about 40-42 minutes.  If you assume 50 minutes, it would have been among my kitchen disasters.  I think I could have gotten away with taking it out earlier, but I liked the flavor from a little more browning.  It’s great “as is” or with a little whipped cream — even the stuff from the can!

Also, it’s not at all temperamental.  I didn’t use a hand mixer.  I just threw in all of the wet ingredients, added all of the dry ingredients, and stirred by hand.  Simple.

Cooked well, it’s bliss.  And it will make your kitchen smell like heaven!

Peony love!

I’m not sure why, but peonies are becoming my favorite flower. There’s something about the lushness of them — a bit showier than roses but blooming often at the same time. Ranging from now smell at all to loads of smell. A single flower can be a whole bouquet!

These were from a dear friend to celebrate the solstice! Peony love.

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Summer Solstice and Mame Gohan (peas rice)

IMG_20140620_190819580One of the sure signs of summer is the availability of snap peas, but the thing that really gets my interest are the shelling peas.  Ever since I lived in Japan, I’ve had a fondness for the simplest of dishes called “mame gohan” or peas rice.  It’s such a simple thing — rice, kombu (a kind of think seaweed), salt, sake (rice wine) and peas.  Delish!  My CSA had given us shelling peas last week and this week, so I knew I had enough to make it.  Plunked in front of the tv, I shelled the peas with some help from Mapo, my cat.

Mapo peas

For those who like recipes, here’s one that is essentially what I did:  http://nanamikitchen.com/en/blog/2014/04/08/green-pea-rice-mame-gohan/.  The bonus is that the photos on this page are really beautiful!

Because it’s essentially a clean flavor of nothing more than peas and rice, it got me thinking about what to serve with it.  I’ve been craving fried chicken, but I’ve never really made it.  I’m a bit of a germophobe when it comes to handling raw meat, so although I like eating it, I don’t always love cooking it.  My other fear is making sure things get done in time so big pieces of things like chicken freak me out.  I’ve done fried “karaage” (Japanese fried chicken bits that are usually dipped in a soy-based sauce after frying to make them sticky and extra tasty), but I’ve never really made real fried chicken.  My grandmother was famous for hers so it feels a little lame not to be good at it.  That said, I cheated and did chicken tenders — bigger than a nugget but small enough that there’d be no worry about whether it was cooked.  I don’t want to kill anybody.

We also got beautiful broccoli from the farm, so I was set on a menu.  Mame gohan, friend chicken tenders, and garlic-broccoli.  And beer from my new favorite place Fire Mountain Brew House.  And a friend coming over to celebrate the end of the week and, coincidentally, the summer solstice.

cooked peas

Except for shelling the peas, it’s really a simple thing to make.  You wash the rice (2 cups of the short-grain rice usually used for Japanese cooking) of starch by rinsing it several times until the water runs nearly clear.  I did a quick poach of the peas in about 2 cups of water and then plunged them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep them green.  The pea water then becomes the water for cooking the rice, giving it a bit more pea flavor.  If you cook the peas in the rice the whole time, you kill the peas by cooking them too long.  Using the pea water gives you some extra flavor.  kombuTo the water and rice you add the piece of kombu, the salt and the sake.  You then cook about 10 minutes (high to boil, then super low to simmer) and then take off the heat and leave covered for at least another 10 minutes.  At the point you take it off the heat, you toss in your peas so they can warm/steam on top of the rice as it’s cooking.  Once done, you stir it all together — fish out and discard the kombu — and then eat.  You can make it without kombu and sake, but it’s better with both.

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While the rice was cooking, I set to making the chicken.

I had leftover buttermilk, so I had soaked the chicken pieces in the buttermilk overnight.  To the milk, I added salt and some healthy “glugs” of the red sriracha sauce (the stuff with the rooster on the bottle).  To make my chicken, I took it out of the buttermilk and coated it in a seasoned flour (flour, salt, lots of black pepper, chili powder, paprika, and a little thyme). After the flour, I dredged it in egg and then again into the flour.  I was trying to get a thick “crust” on the chicken since I didn’t have any skin on the tenders.

chicken assembly

Out of the buttermilk, into the seasoned flour, into the egg, and back in the flour.

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A better look at the chicken at the beginning (just flour) and just before frying (after the egg and the second layer of flour).  Plus I gave them a little rest before putting them into the oil hoping the coating would stick better.

The key would be an oil thermometer, but alas I don’t have one.  I just kept putting in bits of egg and flour to see if it was hot enough to sizzle.  Once I felt confident, in went the chicken.

fying

And then when it was brown, I put it on a rack and kept it in a hot oven (about 300 degrees).  This actually accomplished two things — made sure it was cooked through and actually crisped up the skin.   I had also sautéed the broccoli and garlic and kept it in the oven to stay warm.

finished chicken

It all came together in less than a half hour and we were headed out to the garden for dinner.  A delightful, delicious dinner.  Good food, good company.  Happy solstice!

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more of everythingsatisfaction

One final tip:  If you need a fancy thing but you don’t have a lot of time, buy a box of brownie mix.  Any brand.  Before baking, mix in dried tart cherries.  It makes a normal box mix into something special.  I had made some a week or so ago for a potluck, but I had some of it saved in my freezer.  That and some fresh, black cherries from the farmer’s market made for a luscious dessert with some port.

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Summer? Summer!

IMG_20140617_111528903Oregon has been a bit cold-ish the last week or so.  It’s hard to complain given all of the weather challenges in other parts of the country.  Indeed, until we have the big weather events that are always looming as imminent possibilities (THE earthquake.  THE erupting volcano that wipes us out like Pompeii.), Oregon-loving residents have it pretty good.  Yes, we have to keep mowing our lawns most of the year and it’s us against weeds/moss/anything that can overtake a building when you’re not looking.  Still, we’re lucky.  We know it, but like everyone else, we need to let off pressure with a complaint now and then.

But then you walk past a flower that just looked like another growing thing yesterday but KAPPOW! did something amazing overnight.  Like sunflowers.  These sunflowers.  They line the path from my car to my office.  And today, it felt a little more like summer.

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Disasters and near disasters

Anybody who spends time in the kitchen can recount stories of disasters and near misses.  I’ve had my share.  At the top of the list are two.  The first was an exploding glass pie pan that got heated (we still don’t know how to this day) by an electric burner that appeared to be off.  When it exploded, chance kept me and my friend from being in its direct line.  We thought a gun had gone off and somebody shot through the window — the inside window of a 3rd floor apartment.  Unlikely, but the brain does amazing things when panic is triggered.

The second was a recipe that didn’t specify that it made two loaves of cinnamon bread.  I put it all in one pan and squashed that inner voice that thought, “huh, this seems a little full” by thinking “maybe it doesn’t rise very much” even though I knew it had all of the chemistry of a normal recipe.  It was like Vesuvius erupting in my oven.  The bread rose, got a lovely crust, and then the middle just kept pouring over the top.  We put a pan below to try to catch the dripping batter and then kept replacing it with a second as the stuff was burning.  For the life of me, I can’t remember if we actually ate the bread that was in the pan or if we threw the whole mess out.

The only common denominator for both was my patient friend Miki.  She ate a lot of my early kitchen experiments and she helped me survive the shock of both of these disasters.  More importantly, she helped me pick broken pie plate shards off the carpet in my rental apartment.  I wonder if the people who live there now occasionally find a piece of glass and wonder where it came from…

Last night reminded me a bit of my history of near misses.  I had a more adventurous recipe that I have been meaning to try, but as I got off work last night, all I wanted was to throw something in the oven and let it cook while I relaxed on the couch.  Not a hard day.  But I was tired.  I threw some leftover spanish rice with veggies and some cheese and a pan of turnips for roasting into the oven and then contemplated an old and getting older small carton of buttermilk in my fridge.  I bought it for the more adventurous recipe, but it was one day past expiration and I didn’t have the energy.

While the rice was baking, I did a quick search on buttermilk recipes and found what looked to be the simplest of cakes, originally meant for raspberries.  Again stocked with more Oregon strawberries, I decided to do a quick substitution and utilize the already hot oven for a quick cake.  It’s a good recipe:  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Raspberry-Buttermilk-Cake-353616.

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Here’s what the cake looks like on the recipe site after baking:

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake recipe

Here’s what my cake looked like coming out of the oven:

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Not so beautiful.  Ruined, I thought.  Burnt beyond repair.

The recipe calls for cooking at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  I routinely do the lower time.  Sometimes even less just to be safe.  Instead, I set the timer for 25 minutes and walked away.  Mistake.  Potential disaster.  What came out of the oven looked dark, ugly, and just plain bad.  It didn’t necessarily smell bad, but it wasn’t good.

As the cake cooled, something miraculous happened.  What looked dark brown and burnt kind of mellowed in color.  I think part of the issue is you sprinkle quite a bit of sugar on top to make a crust.  That crust is really brown, at least it was in my case.  If I were to cook it again — and I will since all recipes deserve a second chance — I’d still stay at the high temperature but take a look at things at 20 minutes and then go from there.

I’m glad I left it in the kitchen to cool.  Later, when I went back, I thought, “well maybe I can’t serve it to anybody else, but it looks like it’s worth giving it a taste.”  So I did.  It had an interesting texture — maybe from the buttermilk and more liquid to dry ingredients ratio.  It was a little spongy.  And the strawberries that were floating on top kind of sink to the bottom and the sugar turns into a bit of a crust.

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Good enough to eat two small pieces.  Maybe even good enough to share.  Not such a disaster after all…

 

Oregon strawberries

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Oregon is well known as a fruit, especially berry-producing place.  I am sorry to say for my friends in locations where more typically produced berries exist, but Oregon berries really are the best.  For one, they are typically red all the way through.  Secondly, they almost always have tender skins that get mushed easily which makes them nearly impossible to transport (believe me, I tried, carrying them by hand on a flight to San Francisco, but they looked pretty weary at arrival — still tasted marvelous!).  They are often smaller than the “show” berries of the supermarket and can be a little bumpy or shaped oddly.   The taste is out of this world.

Many summers I have purchased and devoured berries and tried various varieties.  I’ve made cakes, jams, and other tasty treats.  For some reason, THIS year, I thought I had missed the season.  I panicked, a little.  Somewhere in my body, I must have known that this year, more than previous years, I needed the goods.  The stuff.  The Oregon love packed into little nuggets of pink, red, and sometimes crimson goodness.

I’m getting ready for week 3 where each week equals a flat of strawberries — 12 pints!  I’ve been a little generous in sharing them, but I’ve got to admit I’ve eaten my share.  I’ve been doing all I can to revel in the short season, knowing they will soon be replaced by other wonderful things, but gone nonetheless.  Strawberries aren’t even my favorite fruit.  This year, I cannot get enough.

I’ve eaten them on bagels.

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I’ve eaten them on salads.

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I’ve eaten them on french toast (I had stale bread.  What choice did I have?!)

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I made “mock sangria” by floating them in a sweet, slightly fizzy white wine.

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I’ve just eaten them straight.  Often.  Lots.

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After week one’s eating them mostly fresh, I started comparing.  Were week one’s Seascape berries better or worse than week two’s Hoods and Valley Reds?  What about the Tillamook variety?

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Initial taste test: Hood for most berry flavor, then Seascape and Tillamook and finally Valley Red. But then you get a special Valley Red (maybe every 4-5 berries) and the flavor is unbelievable!! Top of the list if you could get it in each berry, plus the color is deep, dark, gorgeous.

I started making things.  Week two brought a strawberry syrup for making sodas with fizzy water, but it also became a sauce for more fresh berries over plain yogurt. 

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I made a wonderful strawberry upside down cake that came from http://www.purewow.com/entry_detail/recipe/10436/Fresh-strawberry-upside-down-cake.htm.

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Who knows what week three will bring?  Maybe a strawberry-olive oil-balsamic cake found on Food 52’s site.  Maybe an adventurous and complicated Strawberry Mousse cake found on Martha Stewart’s site.

Likely, more bagels, yogurt, salads and straight.  Straight, simple, indulgent goodness.  Oregon love!

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