It’s the Simple Things

I call this picture “Grocery store bouquets + patience”.

Sorry I’ve been away all week, but there has been precious little cooking going on around here. See, I decided that I just had to paint our living room because I couldn’t take the mottled walls anymore. Of course, when your house is basically an open plan, painting the living room also involves painting the dining room, the hallway, the entryway (complete with a 12-foot ceiling) and the kitchen ceiling. So my everything hurts and I’m exhausted by the end of the day. Boo-hoo.

BUT it’s going to look great in here when I’m done! And in the meantime, I have these pretty little flowers to keep me visually satisfied.

Then it’ll be time to build shelves in the dining room and perhaps retile the downstairs bathroom. Oh, and refinish a mid-century-ish nightstand I bought for a song from Craigslist. Busy, busy…

 

From the Market: Week 3

Week 3 at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market was all about dogs and berries for us. It took almost an hour to make a full circuit as we stopped to play with other dogs, chat with their owners and meet fellow dog lovers who happened to be without canine companions at the time. One of the best things about heading out there every Saturday is getting to chat with the people in our neighborhood we’d never see otherwise.

And the berries – oh, my, those berries. See, I’ve always loved the idea of strawberry pie or tart more than the actuality of it. Reason consistently took a back seat to desire whenever I’d see those plump, glistening berries perched atop a golden crust until I took my first bite and found … nothing. No satisfaction, certainly, but not even much in the way of flavor. Too often, those strawberries bore a striking resemblance to supermarket tomatoes — beautiful, and about as tasty as plastic. With that disappointing history, I put the thought of a strawberry tart out of my mind until I realized the Orchards of Concklin‘s berries are so juicy and luscious that any dessert featuring them must be just as spectacular.

To up the ante on the tart, I decided to go with a butter/lard crust instead of a regular all-butter one. To be honest, I chose to use lard as much for its reported baking benefits as for the cracklins that come as a by-product of the rendering process:


Cracklins and a quart of lard. Is it just me, or are you looking at that Mason jar and thinking, “This cow got into an onion patch,” too?

As far as I can tell, our local market doesn’t carry leaf lard, so I ordered a couple of pounds from two sources — Flying Pigs Farm and Bobolink Dairy. It’s important to me to get quality animal products from reputable sources; factory farms have horrible reputations for animal welfare and antibiotic use, so I just avoid them and (admittedly) buy more expensive meat, but eat much less of it than I used to.

The rendering process wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined nor as smelly as its reputation. In fact, if a person is willing to eat lard at all, I don’t understand how they wouldn’t want their house to smell the way mine did while the lard was on the stovetop, bubbling away. If you’re looking to render your own lard, I found this to be an invaluable resource.

Despite the deep color of the lard when it came off the burner, the tart crust didn’t have a porky flavor in the slightest, but instead was slightly nutty with a rich and decadent feel. I chose an Emeril Lagasse recipe mainly because it came up first in my search and called for pastry cream instead of berries glazed with a sugary syrup; pastry cream is one of those things that just makes my toes curl. Instead of the crust in the recipe, I tried a gluten-free version, but wasn’t happy with the combination of flours I used. I’ll continue to experiment and will give you something that really works…soon, I hope. But for now, we’ll just enjoy the penultimate tart we have, instead of crying over missed perfection:

Later on, I glazed the berries with some of the raspberry-plum jam I’d happened to pick up from B&B Jams. It added a much stronger flavor than plain apricot jam would’ve without overpowering the fresh berries; in fact, I think it complemented them very, very well.

Oh, and the peonies we picked up a couple of weeks ago? Still beautiful, though decaying:

Next up: Vegetables of Insane Greatness.

Spring has sprung

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On a cool and rainy Monday afternoon, it’d be easy to grumble a bit and wish the vestiges of winter would just leave for good already, but memories of our perfect weekend weather keep my emotions in check. The sun and warmth had such a curative effect on my doldrums that I BAKED, people — and if that isn’t a testament to spring’s power, then I don’t know what is.

So welcome, Spring, and please don’t rush off so quickly. Perhaps I could tempt you to hang around with a nice lemon tart or two…

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Pucker up!

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Spring has sprung”

Bloomin’

The amaryllis bulbs I planted a few weeks ago have bloomed. Thanks again, Deb — they’re just gorgeous!

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