Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peach Crumble

Pin It Added 8/09: FULL DISCLOSURE: I did omit an important ingredient...the brown sugar. That truly could've made a big difference in how the recipe turned out. But the truth is, this dessert sat around for over a week and was only half eaten. Yeah...desserts just don't do that in my house!! So, until I re-make it correctly, I will call this recipe a bomb. Just so you're warned....But if you want to go ahead and try it correctly (Really could make a HUGE difference!!) I won't delete the original post:

My sister, Stacy, has been posting some yummy foods on Facebook this week! Yesterday it was a Blueberry-Sour Cream pie and today it was Peach Pie. Yeah, my stomach started grumbling! Brian even mention (jokingly, of course) that he was ready to pack the car and drive down to the Bay Area.

This afternoon I gave in and looked in my personalized "Cook's Illustrated" cookbooks. I found a recipe for Peach Crumble that looked mighty tasty. Thankfully I had all the ingredients on hand. I didn't have fresh peaches, but had some frozen ones. My bag was 16 oz., while the recipe called for 10. So I simply multiplied the recipe by 1 1/2.

As I was making them, I realized what it is about crumbles/cobblers that I do/don't care for. I usually prefer a crunchy crumbly topping; not a soggy cakey one. With this crumble you bake the topping first and then add it to the fruit. It was kind of an "AHA!" moment for me.

Peach Crumble

Add the lemon juice to taste in step 2 according to the sweetness of your peaches. If ripe peaches are unavailable, you can substitute five 10-ounce bags of frozen peaches, thawed overnight in the refrigerator. The topping can be baked ahead of time, as directed in step 3, then cooled and stored in an airtight container. As directed in step 4, sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit and continue to bake.

Serves 4 to 6

3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (6 to 7 medium), peeled and pitted; each peach halved and cut into 3/4-inch wedges (about 6 1/2 cups prepared peaches)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
3-5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon (see note above)
Pinch table salt
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1 3/4 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark), 1 3/4 ounces*
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces and very soft
1/2 cup sliced almonds**

1. Adjust oven racks to lower and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. FOR THE FILLING: Gently toss peaches and sugar together in large bowl; let stand for 30 minutes, tossing several times. Drain peaches in colander set over large bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup drained peach juice, cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in small bowl; discard excess peach juice. Toss juice mixture with peaches and transfer to 8-inch-square glass baking dish.

3. FOR THE TOPPING: While peaches are macerating, combine flour, sugars (reserving 1 tablespoon granulated sugar), and salt in workbowl of food processor; drizzle vanilla over top. Pulse to combine mixture, about five 1-second pulses. Add butter and half of nuts; process until mixture clumps together into large, crumbly balls, about 30 seconds, pausing halfway through to scrape down sides of workbowl. Sprinkle remaining nuts over mixture and combine with two quick pulses. Transfer mixture to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into even layer (mixture should break up into roughly 1/2-inch chunks with some smaller, loose bits). Bake on middle rack until chunks are lightly browned and firm, 18 to 22 minutes.

4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Grasping edges of parchment paper (following "Transferring the Baked Crumble" illustrations 1 and 2 below), slide topping over peaches and spread into even layer with spatula, packing down lightly and breaking up any very large pieces. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon sugar over top and place on lower oven rack. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until well browned and fruit is bubbling around edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes; serve.

* OOPS! I completely forgot the brown sugar. How did I not see that? Still turned out, but will not forget it next time!

**I don't care for almonds so I (purposely, this time!) omitted them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marjoram or Oregano?

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Marjoram and Oregano

As my herb garden has grown, I've had a harder time identifying the plants. Some, like Sage "Berggarten", Chives, or Lemon Balm are quite easy to ID. I can even tell the difference between the "Grosso" and "Silver Edge" lavenders.

I have the hardest time with oregano and marjoram. It's no wonder since they come from the same family (origanum) and look (and smell!) a lot alike. Now that they're in bloom though, I thought I might have some luck in figuring out which is which. Google is great. I googled "marjoram or oregano" and came across this nifty article which did all the homework for me. It's a nicely written piece that goes indepth about these herbs.

In the end I learned that most oregano flowers are pinkish-purple, while they're white on marjoram. I quickly ran out to the garden, and sure enough...I can tell a difference!! Apparently the leaves have differences too, but I couldn't see them with my lay-gardener's eye. When I felt the leaves, I could tell a difference. The marjoram leaf feels smoother, kind of waxier. The oregano, while not fuzzy, was definitely coarser.


Other herbs shown: Sage "Berggarten" and "Silver Edge" Lavender

Kung Pao Chicken

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Early in our marriage, Brian and I bought a Sunset cookbook called, "Chinese Cook Book". It was published in 1979, so was already an "older" publication by the time we bought it (early 90s). We tried several recipes from it before settling on a favorite, Kung Pao Chicken, which we've been making ever since. You can tell from the book, that we made this recipe quite often. (Please tell me I'm not the only cook with food stains all over the books/recipe pages!)

Kung Pao Chicken is one of our oldest "Family Favorite" staples, and I can't believe it's taken me so long to share it on the blog. It's been mentioned in some past posts, but not with pictures.

Over the years we've made some minor changes to it. The ingredients in the "small bowl" below are doubled from the original recipe. The original recipe simply didn't make enough sauce. We also add stir fry veggies to it (usually peppers, as we keep those chopped and frozen year round). You can adjust the spiciness by the number of hot peppers used, as well as the variety of hot pepper.

Kung Pao Chicken
(Adapted from Sunset Chinese Cook Book)

Small Bowl:
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
2 TB sherry
2 TB soy sauce
1 TB white wine vinegar
3 TB water

Medium Bowl:
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB sherry
1 TB canola oil

Chop: 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Place them in the medium bowl and let sit until ready.

Have ready in 3 small bowls:
4-6 chile peppers
½ C peanuts

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp crushed garlic

2 whole green onions, chopped
Chopped stir fry veggies (peppers, carrots, peas, baby corn, etc.)

Heat wok*. Add 1 TB canola oil.
Add peppers & peanuts. Remove promptly.
Add 2 TB oil.
Add garlic & ginger. Stir.
Add chicken mixture until opaque.
Add peppers, peanuts, green onions, & any other stir fry veggies.
Add small bowl of sauce.
Cook until mixture thickens.

*I used to use a wok, but usually use a large skillet instead. Cook's Illustrated pointed out that heat is more evenly distributed in a skillet than in a wok.