Saturday, September 27, 2008

putting food by...

I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to actually can stuff. In the 
past few years, I'd moved from canning to freezing. Freezing is efficient and pretty easy. 

Canning requires time and planning and... gear. 

In our family, there is a goofy tale my husband created for his girls when they were small: The Lonesome Doorknob
It was based on a doorknob someone found that had been lying around undiscovered for many years. Surely my canning pot had achieved Lonesome Canning Pot designation, after languishing unnoticed and unappreciated for over ten years in our garage.

Anyway, I had a really good recipe from Alice Waters for a tomato sauce that I'd modified somewhat. And I'd already used up the batch I'd made and frozen earlier this summer. As I was thinking about making more, I decided it was so good I would give it as gifts this Christmas, which meant canning, not freezing.

Well I had to buy jars, I'd recycled my old collection. And scrubbing the canner, first empying out several dead crickets.

 This morning I actually got to the canning part. I'd made the puree (which this really is, rather than a sauce) yesterday : 30 pounds of good tomatoes,  some onion, and a ton of fresh garlic.

Oh the joy of the thunk of the jar lids and they start to cool after their boiling water bath! 
Oh the glistening jars, lined up on the cooling rack.
I've captured summer in a jar!

Friday, September 26, 2008

za'atar continued

So, I had a light dinner before a meeting recently with several Woodlands Garden friends, and Genia brought pita stuffed with za'atar, a spice blend used as a condiment.  Genia directs a foundation that provides microcredit to small businesses in the Middle East, and she has traveled and lived there.

She sent me several recipes for za'atar and then I did a little research. It is made from dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. 


 Sandra Bowan, at "...A Pinch of..." explains that sumac comes from rhus corania,  a tree that grows in the Middle East and in parts of Italy. The condiment,  za'atar, is used as a meat rub, as a spread when mixed with olive oil, or it can be sprinkled on hummus. 

I would describe the flavor as warm with a twist: the combination of the toasted sesame seeds and thyme contrasts with the sumac's pleasing piquancy that then finishes with a salty tang.

You can make it more easily than I can describe it:

2T dried thyme (be sure it is not merely flavored dust, get a new jar)
2t sesame seeds, toasted (or more if you are fond of them)
1T sumac (you can get this at a middle eastern market or on line at Penzey's)
1/2 t salt


I found it premade at the Dekalb Farmers Market this morning..

Anyway, have fun with this. It is a nice change from our usual palate.

(and thanks to Liz, for the picture of Cairo)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

earlier this week

The weather is cooler here in Georgia. The garden still has tomatos ripening, and the kale I'd bought was still good and needed to be used. Here's what I put together:

bunch of kale, washed, ribbed and cut in smallish medium pieces
3 garden tomatoes, cut up
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
 1 tsp. pimenton

I browned the onion in a pot til it was golden but not yet darkly caramelized. Added the tomatoes ,garlic and kale, the pimenton, a pinch of cayenne, a little water, covered pot and let it cook on med. heat. Checked every so often to assure moisture, added a little water. 

When the kale was tender, I set this aside and cooked a couple of pieces of mahi in the oven.
Served fish on top of kale, along with pitas I'd stuffed with a wonderful middle eastern spice Genia shared with me: zatar. More on that another time...