Banh Mi

Divine Banh Mi from Neighborhood Noodle

moon

Chasing the moon.

stalagmite

Neighbor's dryer vent stalagmite.

stalagmite

It is about a foot tall.

brandywine

The Brandywine Inn in Grand Rapids

lobby

Waiting for Jim in the lobby of Calvin College.

lobby

I like blue.

curry powder

Roasted and ground this morning for dinner tonight.

(Click to enlarge.) Sesame seeds; cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cloves; pecans almonds and peanuts; tomatillo, avocado leaf and tortilla.

Stephen and I reunited for Thanksgiving and a bit of a culinary frenzy. Thursday we cooked a sublime feast of tikka-inspired turkey, pretzel rolls, cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. Friday featured left-over mashed potato bread (for turkey-cranberry sandwiches, of course) and Saturday we took a trip to Honey Bee Market in Detroit’s Mexicantown with an eye to tackling mole.

Toasting the seeds extracted from various dried chiles (with a bit of tortilla).

Spurred on by the direction in Rick Bayless’ black mole recipe to, “now do something that will seem very odd…turn on an exhaust fan, open a window and toast your seeds…until burned to charcoal black,” we hit the kitchen.

We were there for hours.

Guajillo, ancho and pasilla chiles; now seedless and fried crispy; then soaked; eventually pureed.

We chopped, toasted, blended, fried, soaked, and simmered – much of the time with the fan on and the back door open.

The much-used blender; puree of tomatillos; puree of toasted seeds and nuts; puree of banana, onion, garlic, spices and burnt toast.

And in the end, we got a silky, complex, just spicy enough, slightly sweet sauce that formed the basis of the best enchiladas I have ever made.

Mole in the cooking-down stage; finished silky mole; tossed with cooked, shredded chicken; in the final dish.

Was it fun?  Yes.  Did we set off the smoke alarm?  Only two or three times.  Do I want to do this again in the  near future?  No.  But, fortunately, I still have three containers of mole in the freezer.

easter eggs

Grownup eggs.

easter bunny pancake

Buncake.

macaroons

Milk-chocolate-covered macaroons.

When was the last time I colored Easter eggs? Well, it was last night, thanks to Jessica and Peter. That’s her lovely cityscape there…almost too pretty to eat.

This morning, it was time for pancakes and somebunny came to call. What, you’ve never made a pancake shaped like a mysterious chocolate-giving rabbit?

Speaking of chocolate…

Baby beets after steaming and peeling.

Baby beets after steaming and peeling.

Aw, man, how can these little babies be so flippin’ gorgeous and tasty, too!  Honestly I was just cooking, on a holiday, in my pajamas, and my salad made me clamber outside to the deck and pray for the thunderstorm to hold off so I could photograph my food.  I mean, come ON.  Lovely, lovely creatures, beets.

Sliced with their steamed greens.

Nestled in their steamed greens.

Topped with lightly pickled red onion, blue cheese and ground pepper.

Topped with lightly pickled red onion, blue cheese and ground pepper.

We’ve had a rather cool summer, but things are now starting to grow in earnest. (Click to enlarge, if you dare.)

Baby corn.  The plant is about two feet high.

Baby corn. The plant is about two feet high.

A pole bean.  The plant is about 6 feet high.  It would be higher if I let it climb the garage wall.

A pole bean. The plant is about 6 feet high. It would be higher if I let it climb the garage wall.

Bean flower.  Nothing there one day, a dozen flowers the next.

Bean flower. Nothing there one day, a dozen flowers the next.

My tomato plant is about 7 feet high.  Tomatoes have been green for ages.  Not a lot of sun lately.  Theyre organic brandywines from my CSA.

My tomato plant is about 7 feet high. Tomatoes have been green for ages. Not a lot of sun lately. They're organic brandywines from my CSA.

Outgrowing my tomato cage and headed for the roof of the garage.

Outgrowing my tomato cage and headed for the roof of the garage.

I have mint in a pot on the porch.

I have mint in a pot on the porch.

Basil, too.

Basil, too.

garlic pulled and waiting to be loaded in the bin

garlic pulled and waiting to be loaded in the bin

Jim and I went to pick garlic at my farm today.  Came back with sunburn, gifts of zucchini and garlic, and bellies full of hamburgers (with roasted garlic).  Danny used the plastic lifter to uproot the rows of garlic, and we just had to pull them out and clean them up.  Lifter broke on the last row, though, so I attempted to wield the pitchfork.  Not my strong suit.  Still, with a dozen or more volunteers we managed to harvest 120 bushels!  The small bouquet in my kitchen smells divine.

(And no, the rip in my jeans was not because of mishandling the fork.  Instead I caught them on a wire on a greenhouse table, about thirty seconds after Michelle warned me about the wires on the greenhouse tables…)

See also: my previous trip to Maple Creek Farm and what I did with their strawberries.

staceys ventilated jeans and the pitchfork

stacey's ventilated jeans and the pitchfork

"farmer" jim

bouquet of garlic

stacey's bouquet

The glorious fruit! (Click to enlarge.)

The glorious fruit! (Click to enlarge.)

I love strawberries!  But before this summer, I don’t think I’d had good ones since we used to have a big ol’ strawberry patch when I was growing up.  I had a love/hate relationship with it, as I despised the chore of picking, but, even in my crazy picky-eater childhood, I always liked strawberries!  Now, a blessing of living in Michigan, I can get them fresh in the beginning of summer.  My farm even grows them, so after sampling them in my weekly share, I had to dash off to the Royal Oak Farmers’ Market to buy myself a whole flat of them.  I made ice cream, a tart and a cobbler.  I ate them sliced and in yogurt and in salads.  I froze some for later.  And I made jam.

My flat of fresh, organic berries.

My flat of fresh, organic berries.

Ooh, strawberry jam on a scone with a cuppa…nothing finer.  Strawberry jam proved to be slightly trickier than I had imagined, though.  Ain’t no pectin in strawberries, see?  You know, the substance in fruit that makes jams and jellies gel?  One generally compensates for this by adding some other fruits that are high in pectin – lemon, apples.  My recipe called for lemon juice.  I followed it to the letter, except that I cut it in half (and thank goodness, because I don’t know anyone with a pot large enough to accommodate the whole recipe).  I dutifully measured my sugar (the other component that makes jams set) and added my lemon and I sliced and boiled and skimmed and sterilized and sealed and got…strawberry syrup.  I let it cool completely.  I waited a day.  Runny as a melted popsicle.

Juuuust fits in the pot.

Juuuust fits in the pot.

Grocery-store pectin to the rescue!  For emergencies such as these (or for starting out with a more foolproof recipe) pectin comes in powdered forms, derived by chemical processes from various citrus fruits.  I opened my eight jars of jam, poured their contents into a pot, cleaned and sterilized all the jars, boiled up my jam again with a bit of pectin, potted, sealed, reprocessed and waited for the moment of truth.  They set.  Not firmly, mind you, but enough to be spreadable and sit atop my bread, rather than soaking into it.  I lost a jarful in the process, but, nevertheless, I am the proud mother of seven half-pints of delicious, homemade, strawberry jam, and if you come visit me I’ll make scones and tea to accompany it!

Bubble, bubble.

Bubble, bubble.

The jars process in a water bath.

The jars process in a water bath.

A cobbler diversion

A cobbler diversion

The moment of truth.

The moment of truth.

Like summer in a jar.

Like summer in a jar.

Died and gone to heaven.

Died and gone to heaven.

Oh, science  is fun.  I have been craving pretzel bread lately, but had yet to look for a recipe, when, lo, this recipe appeared in my Twittersphere.  The former journalist turned blogger-baker had done my work for me, researched recipes, and come up with one of her own she liked better! I had some smoked salt (brought back from Italy for me by John and Michael many moons ago) and the basic ingredients so I went to town.

Here’s the science bit.  The pretzel rolls are like bagels, you boil them and then bake them, to give them that chewy exterior.  Flour Girl’s recipe has you boil them in water with sugar and baking soda.  I suspected, but was unsure, that it was for color (something about acid levels and sugar means browning).  My accidental experiment proved the hypothesis.  I forgot the baking soda when I boiled the first two rolls.  Then added it after they came out, before I boiled the rest.  Presto!  Parti-colored pretzel rolls.

And they taste mighty good, too.

More photos with the new toy.  (Click to enlarge.)