Archive for December, 2009
The wassail bowl is still standing by, awaiting New Year’s and Twelfth Night duty. In spite of brutal temperatures, we’re still harvesting late fall greens (radicchio rules!) from their snug plastic tunnels. But the garden of 2010 has commenced; there are seed catalogs strewn all over the house, most with pens falling out of them. Vegetables dominate the lists, vegetables not seen on seed racks in stores, but there are also a few flowers
Tashkent marigold ( from Southern Exposure). The foliage has a sweet fragrance, the plants grow bushy with minimal pinching and the flowers absolutely glow.
Here’s my roundup of favorite sources:
Visiting Ilana yesterday, bringing a little box of belated pepparkakor chickens and some apples, not expecting anything in return but there was a carton of beautiful eggs. (Spring is supposed to mark the resumption of egg season – see Easter – but Ilana says her hens are already cranking up.)
Mentioned in thanking that I was going to a New Year’s party and might be asked to bring appetizers, in which case I’d make my gift into tea leaf eggs.
Tea Leaf Eggs, photographed (rather pinkly, for some reason; they aren't really) last fall. They were large eggs, better with wasabi dip than as deviled eggs with wasabi
Turned out that this caterer’s warhorse, deliciously smoky, beautifully marbled and remarkably easy to make was news to her, so I promised the recipe and here it is:
Sorta – These velvety sweet chestnuts in a crunchy sugar shell aren’t quite as light-textured as the real deal, but they’re good enough to be a variation instead of simply an earnest attempt, and now that the candied chestnuts of my childhood have hit about $5.00 each they’re a variant well worth making. (Assuming, of course, that marrons glacés are on your list of “wish I could afford more.”)
Left: Marrons glaces en chemise. Right: Glazed candied chestnuts
Although fresh chestnuts can be used, it’s far easier to start out with IQF peeled chestnuts (see below). The processing that delivers them whole, absolutely skinless and in a neither-cooked-nor-raw state is probably something we don’t want to know too much about;* but whatever it is has the happy side-effect of making them much more receptive to candying and much less likely to break.
Fittingly, we have a beautiful evergreen for the holiday – in the landscape, not in the house. Our friend Eric over at Yale’s Marsh Gardens is extolling the merits of cedars, his baby blue one in particular.
A close-up of the foliage shows the whorled-arrangement of needles along the stem. This is distinctive to all of the Cedars.
Also an Eek of the Week: Fake Bakers, about the – many, according to story – people who bring purchased pastry to bake sales and cookie swaps and pass it off as home made. To enhance verisimilitude, they doctor the store-bought by roughing it up so it doesn’t look too perfect. Directions are provided. I am still trying to digest this.
And in the meantime of course baking cookies, including vanilla almond Moth Cookies and The Spritz Bill Really Likes. Links to more never-fail all-timers after the jump, but first:
Our favorite Pepparkakkor, crisp, spicy, better-than-gingerbread. The quintessential Christmas Cookie and if the Christmas part gives you trouble just use a bird cutter and call ‘em doves of peace.
The recipe makes approximately a zillion. The dough is easy to mix, easy to handle and perfectly happy to stay in the icebox for weeks while you slice off chunks of it to roll and cut and decorate. Or not; a lot of people like them best plain.
On right, fresh chestnuts. On left, one of the all-time convenience ingredients: peeled, skinned and ready to go, as easy to cook as dried beans.
Admittedly, dried chestnuts don’t have the mashed potato fluffiness of the fresh article. Somewhere between mealy and creamy is about the best they can do. But other than that they’re just shortcut chestnuts: great in soups and stews and stuffings, great with winter vegetables and great in holiday sweets and why they aren’t more widely adored is a mystery to me.
Sweet Snowballs (chestnut and white chocolate candy) recipe at the end of the post.
Just a little reminder it’s not going to be winter forever.
First, though, present time. Here’s my perennial shopping list ( with source links) of good gifts for gardeners.
Membership in The Garden Conservancy is on that list without further explanation and at this point none may be needed. But just for the record: after starting small and being exceedingly Northeast-centric, the Conservancy is now saving significant gardens all over the US and offering benefits almost everywhere. Just the ticket for garden-loving friends, regardless of skill level or actual possession of garden.
One of my favorites! For trouble-free late fall bloom on a plant that’s lovely all summer long, I’m with Eric in finding it among the best.
Last Saturday winter began in earnest: steel gray sky, cotton candy snow: very beautiful, very cold,
Then, after the mail came, very much time to be thinking about next year’s tomatoes.
Seed catalogs don’t wait for Christmas any more; they’ve been coming in for about a month. Now the pace is picking up and after last summer’s disastrous late blight, I’m looking through their offerings in a whole new way, because
In the summer of ’09, purely by accident, we had hybrid beefsteaks in the greenhouse.
They were the only tomatoes we got and although they weren’t as good as our favorite heirlooms they were better than anything we could buy locally, heirloom or hybrid.
December 1st, 6:00 PM: The candied grapefruit rind is bubbling in the syrup, almost done, so I’m sort of stuck in the kitchen when I notice it’s cold outside in the clear still night under the fat moon. So of course I get nervous about the lettuce and my pet baby radicchios.
The radicchios are still making progress toward heading up; I continue to have hope
Decide to put covers back on even though plants are already at that frozen stage where you shouldn’t touch them if you want them to thaw unharmed. Wilted tips better than wilted everything being my thinking on that.
Turn off the grapefruit (recipe follows)
Home candied citrus rind is worlds better than store-bought. Also extremely easy to make and very nearly free.
Put on the headlamp, recruit Bill, who puts on his headlamp, and down we go to cover most but not all of what’s left.