Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All things green for the beginning of August...

I was out of town for a week, and got to spend some time at my parent's house about 3 hours west of here. They pared down the garden this year, but I was still amazed at the quantity and size of the plants... I originally was only going to take the jalapenos and green beans, jalapenos for a candied jalapeno project that R1 and I are going to tackle, and green beans for dilly beans thanks to Marisa at Food in Jars. But of course the call of the wild was overwhelming, and when I had picked the beans clean, I grabbed a bunch of green peppers and an armful of carrots. Then I couldn't stop, and also took some onions. But my car had only limited space, since I made no effort to pack lightly for a week long I had to curb my enthusiasm.

As you may have already surmised, I do run greatly in the vein of obsessions. Notably this year, I've been obsessed with mangoes, knitting, tart cherries and canning in general. I forgot how amazing it is to preserve food in jars. Already, my basement storage of preserved food is nearing its capacity, and more room will need to be made. When I planted some green beans that a neighbor had given me in spring, I immediately thought of dilly beans. The first and last time I had one was with Gina (of Square Pie fame: and I forget who gave them to her. Of course, after discovering, I knew I had to try the spicy variety she showcased there.

It's surprisingly easy to can in hot water baths, i.e, pickling and jamming. I always thought that I never had the time, but I guess you make the time for the things obsessions are made of. I hardly have any time left over to think now with the knitting and the flickr and then this canning. At least I am being as productive as I can, for the shortening of summer days begins to remind me now that winter is a long and lonely time for the stay at home types. (Truth be told though, I'm never really lonely, and there is ALWAYS something that has to be made: a bed, a cake, you know.)

cayenne spiced dilly beans, courtesy of Marissa at

When I returned to Milwaukee, I had a scorched yard and lots of basil to contend with: so the first of the pesto preserve was on. Monday, I made the first batch. I like to freeze it in little scoops on wax paper and then transfer to deep frozen storage. Mine stayed nice and green thanks to Michael Chiarello. He recommends blanching the basil, plunging it into the ice bath, then drying it well before proceeding. But I can't be bothered with that - I skipped right to his trick of adding a pinch of ascorbic acid, and it stayed bright green even after its preliminary freeze.

Of course there is no way to make a ton of pesto and not have some for dinner. This was the fastest tastiest way: a Martha Stewart recipe. First, boil a waxy potato or two cut into 1 inch chunks for 2 minutes. Then add pasta and green beans and continue cooking until pasta is done, about 10 additional minutes for the fusilli I used above. Then simply drain and toss with a little pesto. You may think I was going to be in a marathon the next day what with the potatoes, pasta AND bread all on my plate at one time...but sometimes a huge helping of carbohydrates is just what the doctors order.

All of this just since Monday! And tonight is my much anticipated knitting class on mitered mittens. I've been psyched for weeks thinking of the mittens I will make for everyone. On my week gone, I purposefully left all knitting at home so I could rest my carpal tunneled arms, but have still managed to almost finish another hat since I got home as well. Like I said, they don't call them Obsessions for nothing.

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