{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from SouleMama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 6:46 am. 3 comments

Zapotec Pizza Margherita

One of the regrets I have every September is that I never make enough of these pizzas. Even with a family tradition of Friday pizza and movie nights, I can never seem to get enough in. And it’s my fault. I spend the better part of spring and early summer pinning for the First Tomato, inevitably resulting in darn near deification of the first month of harvest.  These tomatoes are above such things as flame and heat. They are the pure essence of summer and therefore must be eaten in their pure state, accompanied only by such acolytes as salt and olive oil.

As July meanders into August, I become less of a tomato zealot and start throwing them willy nilly into everything. After all, what dish is not made better by the addition of a tomato slice or two? This is when I seem to remember the Pizza Margherita. Not needing a recipe, making them become a kind of meditation. I am completely in the present moment as I make it. The golden olive oil pooling in the dimples of the crust. The feeling of the knife brushing my knuckles as it carves off the thin slices of tomato. The spicy green smell of snipped basil lingering on my fingertips. The sizzling of the cheese blistering in the oven. Pizza nirvana follows with the first bite.

And then September comes. Tomatoes are once again precious. Only this time I scrimp and save them up to make this pizza one last time, vowing to make better use of Tomato Time next year.

This year a new tomato wondered across my cutting board. The Zapotec. It’s an heirloom variety from the Oaxacan region of Mexico.  Much like a Roma tomato, it lacks the copious amounts of jelly/guts. Its lower moisture content means it doesn’t make the pizza soggy. Unlike a Roma, however, it’s pleated shape adds visual appeal to a pizza. And it tastes good. All of which leads me to the conclusion that even though pizza might be Italian, its tomato mate speaks with a Mexican accent.

Pizza Margherita*

1 recipe of your favorite pizza crust
Olive oil
Mozzarella cheese
Zapotec or other low moisture tomatoes (peeled if you wish)
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 500°. Stretch or roll out your dough. Drizzle olive oil over the top and brush all the way out to the edges. Shred or slice the cheese and lay it out on the pizza. Horizontally slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. Layer them over the cheese. Slide the pizza into the oven and bake for about 9-12 minutes, until the cheese is pleasantly blistered and the crust is golden brown. While it’s baking, snip the basil into small pieces. If you’re a perfectionist, you can officially chiffonode the basil. If not, cutting it up with scissors works just as well. Once you’ve taken the pizza out of the oven, sprinkle the basil over the top like confetti. Wait about 2 minutes for everything to set, then slice it up and get on your way to pizza nirvana.

*Yes, I realize there are no amounts for the ingredients in the recipe. That’s because it all depends on how big your crust is. I’m trusting that you all are smart enough to eyeball the ingredients.

Posted 5 years, 9 months ago at 7:58 pm. Add a comment

Prosciutto Basil Peach Sandwich

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the BLT’s posh older sister– the PBP. I saw this on the menu at Drip in Five Points but didn’t have the moolah to order. But like an intriguing stranger, it’s been on my mind ever since.

Now that I’ve finally had the opportunity to make them, I think they will become standard summer fare for the Quotidian household. When ingredients are fresh they don’t require lots of culinary cover up to hide the under eye circles developed in red eye flights from Argentina or China.  But what I love most about this recipe is the crispness of the idea. Even when the produce is spectacular, there’s only so many Caprese Salads a girl can eat. Especially in summer when there are so many other chores to be done and activities to be enjoyed, seasonal eating can get stale. Balsamic Cucumber Tomato salad again? While fast and easy are rarely the sole determinants of what I cook, it is nice to have a few of these types of recipes in my apron pockets. A side salad of arugula microgreens makes a perfect meal.

Prosciutto Basil Peach Sandwich

3 slices of a crusty bread, such as ciabatta
soft goat cheese
3 slices of prosciutto
1/2 a ripe peach, thinly sliced, peeled if you wish
3 large basil leaves

Toast the bread lightly and let it cool slightly. Spread it with the goat cheese. Fold the prosciutto slice over the cheese. Top with the basil leaves followed by the peach slices.

Posted 5 years, 10 months ago at 2:42 pm. Add a comment

The First Basil Harvest

IMG_2186Please observe a moment of silence to commemorate the beginning of basil season.

Posted 7 years ago at 2:45 pm. Add a comment

The Pot of Basil

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Dear Roundies,

As South Carolina shows its tropical side with muggy mornings and afternoon thunderstorms, our garden is doing well. The eggplants hang like purple comas throughout the garden, suggesting I pause in my daily labor and admire their bold, anime-like color. Most of the lettuce has bolted and is now almost as tall as me. Cucumbers hide their prickly faces behind leaves like an old man pulling the sheets over his face for a nap.
Continue Reading…

Posted 7 years, 12 months ago at 4:46 pm. 1 comment

Strawberry Freezer Jam

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I’ve always loved home-canned goods. When I was growing up, my mom stacked shelves full of them in the basement. Whenever I had to go down there, I would stop for a few moments and gaze at the sunset colored wall – the dusky yellow corn next to the subdued green beans, burnished orange carrots, and the mottled red salsas. My favorite was the jams. In the murky light of the basement, they glowed like buried treasure.

So, when strawberry season suddenly blossomed, I decided it was time to go pick those jewels…

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This was my first time making jam. I expected it to be much harder, or at least more sweat inducing, than it actually was. That’s the great thing about freezer jam. Because it is preserved in the freezer, there’s no fuss with water baths and sealing jar lids. Just smoosh the berries (which is a very rewarding activity in itself), boil water with the pectin, then mix them together and freeze. How easy is that?

Too easy. With my first batch successfully setting on the counter, you’d think I’d be content for the day and go to bed. But no. There is a greed that befalls jam-jewel makers – well, this one at least. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the little extras I could add to my jam. Think of all the things strawberries pair well with and then imagine that in a jam. Strawberries with rhubarb. Strawberries with cinnamon. Strawberries with coconut. Strawberries with lime. All’s I can say is, it’s a good thing I didn’t pick that many strawberries, or else I’d have a freezer full of just jam right now.

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In the end, I decided on a strawberry basil jam. I’d first tried this combination last summer in a strawberry watermelon basil salad that was refreshing but not overpowering. The basil added a slightly savory element to the otherwise sweet salad. I hoped the same would be true of my sugar laden jam. Due to the chopping method (chiffonade) the basil comes out in long green ribbons that twirl through the red jam like streamers, which I love.

Someday, when I’m lucky enough to have unlimited freezer space, I’d still like to try some of the other flavor combinations I mentioned. Especially the strawberry lime. In an effort to reduce the effect of the green eyed jam monster, I’ve decided in advance what flavor combinations I’d like to try in my other jams: cinnamon peach, apricot amaretto, and cherry balsamic.

Canning is a hopeful venture. Stirring a bowl of simmering fruit links me with all the cooks of times past who poured their hope for the future into jars. Like the ant in Aesop’s fable, they prepared for the winter while the hot sun still shone on their shoulders. The winter filled them with neither dread nor lassitude. In the winter, they could provide abundantly for their family as well as unexpected guests. They could look at a sky pregnant with snow and not despair.

While for me canning is less of a necessity than a hobby, I nevertheless felt like I was tapping into some of the pent up hope of generations before me.  So often when I see trouble brewing, I cut my losses and move on.  But canning reminded me that in the face of an uncertain future, there are things worth preserving – whether a bucket of scandalously red strawberries or a handful of bruised beliefs.   Knowing that winters will come, whether the kind that bring snow or the kind that bring a heavy heart, canning embodies the hope that I will be able to meet it when it comes.

Hope is a thing with jar lids.

Gary Verdict: I had the strawberry basil jam on my waffle a few minutes ago, and it’s the first thing that’s made me consider not using maple syrup all the time.

Recipe

(taken from the SureJell insert)

2 pints strawberries (about 4 cups)

4 cups sugar

8-10 basil leaves (optional)

3/4 cup water

1 package SureJell

Wash and rinse containers with tight fitting lids. Hull the strawberries.

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Then crush them using a potato masher. If you like chunkier jam, leave some almost whole berries. You should end up with 2 cups of crushed strawberries and juice. Use only exactly two cups in the recipe.Save the extra for something else- like strawberry shortcake! If making Strawberry Basil Jam, chiffonade basil leaves- stack 3-4 leaves and roll lengthwise, then chop stem to tip. It should make little ribbons of basil. To the strawberries, add the sugar and basil . Mix well. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the water and SureJell to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, still stirring. Remove from heat.

Stir the SureJell mixture into the strawberry mixture. Stir until the sugar is dissolved (when you can’t feel the sugar grains scraping the sides of the bowl)- about 3 minutes.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared containers, leaving about 1/2 inch of space to allow for expansion during freezing. Cover. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours until set.

Refrigerate up to 3 weeks. Or store in the freezer for up to a year.

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Posted 8 years, 1 month ago at 8:09 am. Add a comment