Kitchen Projects

My friend Gannon is always asking me to keep a video camera on my life because I always have a good story to tell. I've been thinking about keeping a book tour journal, instead.People make the coolest observations, sometimes, or ask awesome questions. In a departure from my typical posts where I hope to educate or inspire, here I'm just sharing a story. Last night, I gave a little chat to the Literary Group at the Rainer Club. They were seriously some of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Incredibly polite, ladies crossing legs at their ankles kind of a crowd. They were incredibly enthusiastic and also very conversational. It was a great great night.

One of the woman in attendance (the one with the hot shoes!) asked me “How many projects do you currently have going?” I laughed out loud. No one has ever keyed in to the fact that my small apartment acts as a sort of laboratory. I constantly have things fermenting, drying, steeping and more. With that, here is a list of my current projects and experiments:

Vinegar steeped with Chamomile, Mint, Rose, Lemon Balm for FACIAL TONER

FENNEL BLOSSOM heads stuffed in a paper bag and drying for my spice cupboard.

LIME BASIL VINEGAR for salads

HERBAL SUN TEA with tangerine sage, mint, anise hyssop, thyme & lovage in my fridge, finally. If you don’t get it in there fast, it ferments and tastes boozy

CHOCOLATE MINT steeping in milk for ice cream? Ganache? Haven’t decided.

LUCIA PLUMS that I picked from the tree I just noticed across my street. Think I’ll make jam tonight.

Urban Pantry featured on Gwenyth Paltrow's GOOP

This morning, my lil' book Urban Pantry received some AWESOME coverage that I am thrilled to share. Gwenyth Paltrow, as you know, is an actress, but she also hosts this bomb website GOOP.com. I was an early fan of the site (Thanks for turning me on to it, Nga!) and so I sent her a copy of my book when it came out. Today, Urban Pantry got full coverage in her newsletter and a personal shout out! Thrilling because........uh........it's GWENYTH PALTROW, but more importantly because this girl knows her stuff. She is a food person through and through and if she found something that resonates with her amongst the pages of Urban Pantry, I am so pleased. Check it out at GOOP.com.

Homemade Apple Pectin Recipe

green applesI have been canning for years and I have never used a pectin product in my preserves. At first, it seemed too easy. Like cheating. I remember talking to my foodies friends and we all swore it off. Plus, it's a processed product and I just don't like the idea of using a product for something that is natural. Why not use the natural 'thing'. And with that, I don't use a pectin product. Here's how to make your own homemade apple pectin…….. What I DO use is the natural pectin in a fruit. Pectin is found in varying degrees in fruit, but is particularly high in the skin, membranes and seeds. Further, pectin is especially high in apples and citrus. I will often add a lemon or an apple core to my recipes to add some pectin. OR, I will make a green apple pectin! Pectin is higher in unripe fruits. As apples naturally have a lot of pectin, young unripe fruits are pectin-packed! You may add this homemade apple pectin (aka green apple pectin) to your low pectin preserves (some berries, cherries) to help with the 'set' of the jam. It's a great shortcut that you can do all by yourself. A very DIY project for the coming weeks, as apple trees are just setting their fruit.

*A note about preserving: You should always, always, follow a tested recipe when preserving. While it's good to grasp the basics of how and why, preserving food is a sensitive process. For guidelines on canning at home, check out the Center for Food Preservation.

Homemade Apple Pectin by Christine Ferber (with my very condensed directions)

3 1/3 lbs green apples (early July is a great time to pick!) 6 1/3 cups water 4 2/3 cups granulated sugar Juice of 1 small lemon

Remove stems and cut apples into quarters. Toss in pot and cover them with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain this apple mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing lightly on the back of the fruit. Compost solids. Filter apple juice again through a cheesecloth so you have a nice clear(ish) liquid. (Wet and wring out your cheesecloth first.)

Measure 4 1/4 cups apple juice and add to a saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, skim the foam and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes. Check set. (You want a thick syrup or jam-y set.) Jar and water bath can.

The Pantry Garden

Check outthis article for great garden books in today's Seattle Time's Magazine from garden & plant guru, Val Easton. She gives a little shout to Urban Pantry that rocks! may_8

The last chapter of my book is titled "The Pantry Garden" and I have to admit to thinking I had a stroke of genius with that title. That's exactly what it is - a section on how to establish a garden that supplies your pantry. You don't need a lot of space and a pantry garden doesn't take much care (as its full of perennials and self-seeding plants). Hell.......you don't even need a yard! Here is a pic of my pantry garden, as it exists right this moment. The anise hyssop from last year re-seeded itself into several pots and is flourishing and the other plants popped last week and put on a ton of growth.

Vanilla Quinoa Pudding

This recipe is quickly becoming a favorite from readers of Urban Pantry. I've received a bunch of feedback and accolade for putting this together. I can't take full credit, of course, because there really are no new ideas. I got the idea for using whole grains in desserts from The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood. That books has influenced my healthful cooking so much, and I love it. It gets front stage placement on top of my fridge, though I use it less and less as of late. It's a wonderful thing, to share a recipe. I found this cool blog Seasonal Menus this morning. The author is mysterious (ie I have NO idea who they are or why they're writing about food) but the blog is simple and concise. I love that they cut to the meat, so to speak, and just post recipes and notes. They added Orange Flower Water to the pudding - a very smart move that I often do myself. I love Orange Flower Water. Try it with, or feel free to omit it as I do in Urban Pantry. That's really the key for pantry-cooking. Use what you have around and improvise. Good stuff.

Urban Pantry, The Cookbook

So, here is the short story - I am writing a cookbook! Here is the long story - it's not out until May 2010.

Urban Pantry will be a modern, clean, hip, inviting, whiff of elegance all wrapped up in one little book about how to cook economically and eco-fabulously at home. This is not your grandmother’s musty old pantry! This is an efficient, thrifty, organized, seasonal storage space or cupboard—a home cook’s go-to place for basic food prep and sustainable meals.  I will have recipes on preserving, using whole grains, and whipping up quick meals from your well stocked urban pantry.

Got any requests?  Send them my way!

I'm off to write and brainstorm in the gorgeous Methow Valley. Stops at Blue Bird Grain Farm and Sunny Pines goat dairy are in order.  I'll be cookin' and writing, writing and cookin'.  Always on the gogo, cookin' up something tasty!