Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Making chili pepper ristras

This summer I grew a jalapeño and a cayenne pepper plant in my garden, and man, are they prolific! There's no way we could eat that many hot peppers, so I decided to make ristras.

My latest harvest of about 60 jalapeño peppers.

I strung them with a thin needle and fishing line.

Here they are, all strung up and ready for drying.

I made three mini ristras so I could hang them from my vegtable baskets. One of the peppers is already turing red.

And here are the cayenne peppers from earlier this summer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fun with herbs: prep

This weekend's project was an herb harvest. I've been putting it off for a while, because it's a big project. Unfortunetly I forgot to take a photo of my overgrown herb garden, but hopefully these photos will give you some idea on how much I harvested.

I started by batch washing them in the sink for a thorough cleaning. Then I put them all through a ride in the salad spinner. I find this step is crucial, because if the herbs stay wet for too long they grow mold.

Here's the parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, chives, tarragon and oregano drying on racks.

And in this corner we have a mountain of basil.

Stay tuned to see what becomes of all these herbs....

Fun with herbs: pesto

Here's how I make pesto. It's easy to make, but you have to use a food processor, and the pinenuts are expensive. But it freezes really well, and Ricardo loves it.

Fill up the bowl with basil that's been washed, dried and de-stemmed.

TRIVIA: my Cuisinart is at least 16 years old -- that $200 was well-spent!

Toast pine nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes -- roasting them brings out their flavor .

Add the pinenuts, chopped garlic, salt & pepper to the bowl.

Pulse until it's well processed, and then add olive oil as the machine is running until it's the consistency you like.

When you're done it should look like this -- it's bright green and pungent.

There you go -- six little containers ready for the freezer. In the cold winter months, one sniff will bring you right back to summer.

Fun with herbs: etcetera

Here are a few other things I came up with this weekend..

Herbs drying in paper bags. The bags are supposed to keep the herbs clean and to help prevent them from turning brown. Once they're dried in a few weeks I'll take the herbs off their stems and put them in jars.

The red jar is olive oil with dried chili peppers and crushed red pepper -- it's perfect dipping oil for bread.

The green jar is pinot gris vinegar with tarragon -- it should make some good salad dressing.

Fun with herbs: bouquet garni braids

I saw something similar to these braids at Sur La Table, and immediately wanted to duplicate them. I love to make homemade chicken stock (it's the secret to my risotto), and these little herb bunches will take my stock to the next level.

I cut the herbs to a similar size (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and tarragon) and tied it with a kitchen string.

Voila! So cute! I showed Ricardo (he's an ex Dean and Deluca employee -- so he knows these things), and he approved.

When I was finished I had 18 little bundles.

I used two packages of rafia to make the braid, and yes it was very messy, but quite entertaining to the cats.

After a few failed attempts, I was quite satisfied with the results.

Even Vince approves!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Birthday wrap-up

I know it's been a while since I've posted, but here you go -- the 40-50 double birthday wrap up. Our party went well -- the weather cooperated, and we had about 30 people come by for our backyard bbq. I didn't have any time to take photos, but luckily Londa snapped a few:

The hosts wearing goofy beads.

The grill-meister hard at work.

For Ricardo's birthday he wanted to go to Ebbitt's (where we got married) for oysters and dinner. I managed to surprise him with a slice of cake.

They did such a good job! How did they know to put paint cosmos on the plate?!

For my birthday I took the day off and decided that no restaurant meal is better than my own home-cooking (sound familiar, Mom?). I made myself a stuffed, roasted chicken.

The perfect plate -- the only thing missing is the creamed onions -- but Thanksgiving will be here before you know it!

Ricardo responded to my "50 never looked so good" post with this cake :)

Celebrating one year with Vince

A year ago we took in a little kitten who was living in the alley behind our house. He won us over with his meows and affectionate head-rubs. He's brought us so much joy.

BEFORE: Little Vince on the night we brought him in the house, looking like he's not sure if this is the place for him.

AFTER: One year later, a very comfortable, much bigger Vince sprawls out on the couch with his Dads. How could you not love a kitty with snaggle teeth?

We celebrated his special day with tuna (what else?) And yes, it's in the shape of the number 1.

All the kitties joined in the party....

... until an unusual visitor crashed the party!