Monday, May 25, 2009

cake for breakfast

i figure the best thing about birthdays is that you get to eat cake for breakfast.
we were celebrating my mom's 58th birthday this weekend. she came down from mt. shasta for a visit which included walking on the beach at point reyes - lovely although it's suddenly winter again here in the bay, a goat roast at our friends' new club downtown (what birthday would be complete without a goat roast?), and we did a storycorps interview together in san francisco.

we started her birthday off right with cake for breakfast. every week for months we have been getting a bag of carrots in our csa box from terra firma farm. they are the best, sweetest carrots in the world. but a person can only eat so many carrots. so we have an entire refrigerator drawer full of carrots. i came across a recipe for carrot cake a few weeks ago that my mom had sent me, and i remembered she really likes carrot cake, so i've been planning to use up some of those carrots in this recipe. then i found this recipe from smitten kitchen for carrot cake - so i sort of blended the two recipes together. i like everything that has ever come out of smitten kitchen, so i used that as a base in this cake and added a few extras: toasted pecans (since walnuts make my tongue swell), dried craisins (because i can't stand raisins - as they say in benny and joon, they're like humiliated grapes), a little shredded coconut, and i meant to add some crushed pineapple, but forgot about it until after i'd put the cakes in the oven so that will have to wait till next time.
as smitten kitchen points out, the best part about carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting. she added some maple syrup to her frosting, which i did as well, but then i thought it could use a little extra kick so i grated some fresh ginger in there too. that was a big hit. it sparks the pallet enough to be raise questions but is subtle enough that it's hard to put your finger on.
and here's one of my best kitchen tips ever, learned from my friend rachel's chef friend: keep your ginger in the freezer. it makes it waaaay easier to grate. you'll be amazed. i love fresh ginger, but i hate all the muscle you have to put into grating it - this makes all the difference, plus ginger snowflakes are pretty delightful.
so we're now eating carrot cake at every meal because, well, it's a vegetable right?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

strawberry season is here

last weekend, the farm that delivers us a box of fresh, local vegetables every week opened up their fields for u-pick strawberries. sele, aryn, and i took a field trip (literally) up there to gorge ourselves on strawberries and bring home a few boxes for frozen and canned delight. it turns out aryn, having grown up on a strawberry and asparagas farm, is a pro at strawberry picking and we loaded up our 3 flats ($10 a piece!) in no time.

the strawberries were beautiful and picked at the peak of perfection, which means they don't keep long in the fridge, so we got right to work processing them. my freezer is now stocked with little ziplocks full of strawberries, and i was inspired last year when my friend rachel told me her mom was making strawberry cardamom jam. i haven't stopped thinking about it since then, so i figured now was the perfect time to try it out.

as much as i raved about pomona's pectin, the problem with not using sugar in the jam is that once you open the jar it only lasts about 3 weeks before starting to get moldy. so aryn and i decided to revert back to using regular pectin; however, i neglected to buy enough of the regular pectin to accommodate the strawberries we were canning, so we ended up having to do an awkward split midway through the process and using some of the pomonas as well.
so the process went something like this:

we washed the berries, and squished them between our fingers - resulting in strawberry splatters all over the kitchen blinds - which i left as inspiration to myself to get around to making some curtains. then we boiled them down with some hand-ground cardamom, grape juice and honey (just juice for the kerr brand pectin, honey for the pomonas pectin).
i won't detail the canning process here, but if you're interested check out previous posts on jamming.

the pectin snafu resulted in half of the batch becoming jam and the other half becoming something more like strawberry sauce. Still tasty, we had some on waffles this morning.

we also made some fresh daiquiries in the process.