Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Food, glorious food!

I have been in a cooking mood lately, partially inspired by all the amazing recipes that keep popping up on Pinterest, and partially due to the glut of Italian plums and cherry tomatoes we have in our garden.

My plum pitter/tomato picker
 It has been a lot of fun, but MAN the dishes are starting to get to me.  Every time I finish preparing a yummy meal (with a delectable dessert, of course), the sink is piled high but it's time to sit down and eat, creating even MORE dishes.  Where is that live-in housekeeper/nanny when I need her--oh wait, I guess that's my job.

In any case, here's a run-down of the recent dishes I have been trying out.

1.  Plum freezer jam
2.  Plum Clafoutis
3.  Dimpled Plum Cake
4.  Oven-roasted tomatoes
5.  Eggplant parmesan
6.  Ham, Spinach, and Gruyere Savory Bread Pudding
7.  Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
8.  Baked Oatmeal with fruit
9.  Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
10. Apple Bread Braid

There are a few more, but I'll start here (SPOILER ALERT--I don't get through the whole list in this post.)

Why was it so hard for me to figure out what kind of pectin I should use for plum freezer jam?  From various articles, I picked up that I should cook the plums before making the jam, but the only options for pectin at my grocery store were "No-cook Freezer Jam Pectin" or the regular kind for canning.  But I was going to COOK my plums!  Well, I finally figured out (from the Ball website's Pectin Calculator--which will also eventually lead you to a recipe) that I should use the no-cook pectin, but cook the plums first.  Makes total sense, right?  Oh well, now I know.

Ready to make some jam?

BUT--I learned a few other things too.  First, I figured that when I cooked the plums they would reduce significantly.  Not the case.  In fact, they didn't reduce AT ALL.  Giving me about double the jam that I intended, which is cool, but it left me scrambling for jam containers, especially since you're not supposed to freeze glass jars that curve in at the top.  Also, (and maybe this is part of the first issue too), my jam is runnier than I wanted it to be.  So maybe I should have let the plums reduce instead of only simmering them for the 5 minutes that the instructions indicated?  Let me know if you know the answer!

When you're putting jam in an old hoisin sauce jar,
you know you're in trouble.  We're eating that one first
(so I don't forget what's in there).

OK.  The Plum Clafoutis.  LOVE!  It's like one of my all-time favorite breakfasts, the Dutch Baby Pancake (this is the recipe from Sunset Magazine that I use), but a little denser and sweeter.  I used plums, since that's what I have a ton of, but there are recipes using cherries, apples, pears, pretty much any fruit you like.  It's SO EASY and delicious if you like eggy custardy sorts of treats.  Top with whipped cream if you're serving it for dessert (I left off the cream when I ate it for breakfast).

Just say "cla FOO tee."

Next up, Dimply Plum Cake.  This is yummy, but not a real wow factor for me.  It's a dense spice-type of cake with plums baked into the top.  I think the next time I make it I will use a 9x13 instead of an 8x8 pan to get a thinner layer of cake, and a higher ratio of plums.  This is also a food that for me, whipped cream on top=dessert, no whip=breakfast.  It actually reminds me of coffee cake.  I think my runny plum jam on top would make the plum-to-cake ratio just right!

Dimply plums.

Now on to the oven-roasted tomatoes.  I have a confession to make.  I don't like raw tomatoes.  Not even the kind grown fresh in my own garden.  If you give me tomatoes, I will eat them because I am a grown-up and I care about you.  But I would never choose them. These, however, make me want to eat tomatoes.  And I can use them in about a million things, including sauce (OMG so good).  I have made three batches of these so far this year out of the little sungold tomatoes, and MAN I wish I had more room to freeze things because I hear they freeze well (just put the cookie sheet in the freezer until they freeze individually then bag 'em up).  For my own tomatoes, I lay the sliced-in-half tomatoes out on the parchment with some cloves of garlic, then (avert your eyes, true foodies) spray them with the Trader Joe's olive oil in spray can for an even mist.  A misto would work AWESOME for this because then you could use some quality olive oil, but I don't have one of those.  Then I sprinkle with a little salt and some Italian seasoning before popping them in the oven at 225 for 3 hours or so.

Put 'em on a pizza, in your tomato soup, on pasta with a little fresh basil...yummm.

Okay, this is starting to get crazy.  I'll leave off here for now and get to the next batch in a couple of days.  Let me know in the comments if you're particularly anxious to hear about anything from the list above--I'll make sure to tell about it next.  Yum!

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