Thursday, August 27, 2009

Watermelon

Watermelon

As I write this at 8:00 in the evening, our thermostat is still reading 83°.

We do not have air conditioning since we don't normally need it - except for the few really hot days like today that we get each summer.

When it's hot, there's nothing quite like the cool, refreshing taste of watermelon. The one pictured above is probably the best we've ever had. It is from Maciel Family Farm - one of our favorite vendors at the Pacific Beach Farmers Market.

You can't see it in the picture above, but the skin color was rippled with a deep, rich green - not washed out like you tend to get with an average supermarket melon. Cutting it in half revealed a beautiful ruby red flesh that seemed the perfect embodiment of Summer. And the taste? Pure heaven. Intensely sweet - but a clean, pure kind of sweet.

It was really great in a fruit salad, but the best bit was definitely those first few scoops straight from melon to mouth.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Operation Cheap-Ass Summer White

Cheap Ass White

Sherry has been wanting to make wine for a while now, but I've been reluctant. I just wasn't convinced that we could make a wine that we would enjoy as much as wines we can buy at the same price point. To be honest, I wasn't convinced that we could make a wine that we would enjoy, period!

But Sherry was persistent that she wanted to give making wine a shot. Surrendering to the inevitable, I theorized that the best path to success would be to do a simple, inexpensive white wine. My reasoning was that a style that generally isn't messed with much would be harder to mess up, and that the inexpensive end of the spectrum was more likely to give us a better value than we can buy. Not to mention that if it ended up being a complete bust it would at least be an inexpensive complete bust.

Thus began what I've dubbed "Operation Cheap-Ass Summer White". Sherry bought an Italian Pinot Grigio kit online from Fine Vine Wines, snagged some wine making equipment that a friend wasn't using, and soon had 6 gallons of grape juice fermenting away.

It is now ready to drink, and I'm happy to report that it turned out pretty well. I'd say that it tastes on par with the less expensive whites we buy, which run about 6 or 7 dollars a bottle. And how much did it cost to make? Here's the breakdown:

Italian Pinot Grigio kit: $67
Corks: $6
Shrink wrap capsules (foils): $4
6% sale discount: -$4.60
Shipping: $9

Total: $81.40

We got 29 bottles out of the batch (it was supposed to yield 30, but we lost a bit while racking off sediment at bottling time). That puts the per-bottle cost right around $2.80. Cheap-ass indeed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spaghetti With Tomato Salsa Cruda

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

So Sherry is out of town for a couple of days and I'm on my own.

It feels very strange pulling out just a single glass from the cupboard.

It feels even stranger being completely responsible for dinner!

In case you haven't guessed already by reading previous posts of ours, while I may be the source of much of the inspiration for what we do, Sherry is very much in charge when it comes to the execution.

Last night, being temporarily responsible for both the inspiration *and* the execution, it was all on me to figure out what to make for dinner. It needed to be heavy on the inspiration, while at the same time being easy on the execution. I went with a simple, summer-focused tomato pasta dish based on ideas I got from this thread on eGullet. It isn't so much a recipe as it is a simple process and a state of mind.

While making breakfast, I also chopped up a few cloves of garlic (four, I think). I put the garlic in a medium-sized bowl and generously covered it with extra virgin olive oil. Don't hold back on the olive oil, since that is the only fat in the dish and we want the richness that it provides.

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

If that looks like a lot of garlic to you, have no fear - it mellows nicely. If you aren't a big garlic fan, I guess you could use less. Or just make a different dish...

The olive-oil-covered garlic just sits at room temperature on the kitchen counter for the day - the flavor of the garlic slowly leaching out into the oil.

A few hours before I wanted to have dinner, I diced up a couple of good-sized tomatoes (around 10oz, total) and popped them into the garlic oil. I added a few generous pinches of kosher salt, gave it a quick stir, and then left it alone for a while longer.

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

After a few hours with the odd stir now and then (and admittedly stealing bits of tomato "to make sure it tastes right") the mixture was transformed. The tomatoes softened and gave up much of their juices to mix with the oil to become a rich, fragrant sauce.

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

At this point, I admit that I could happily spoon this stuff into my mouth now and call it a day. I smells amazing and tasted event better. But, we need to control ourselves and do a bit more to pull the dish together.

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

Heat some water, salt it generously, grab some spaghetti (we keep ours in an Oban canister, don't you?) and toss it in to cook. And yes, "grab some" is the measurement. I told you in advance this wasn't really a recipe!

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

When the spaghetti is ready, drain it and mix it in the pasta pot with the tomato sauce. Serve it in a bowl and top it with a chiffonade of basil. What? You don't have a chiffonade of basil? Neither did I, but I quickly rectified the situation. I told you in advance this was more a state of mind than a recipe...

The result was exactly what I was looking for. Richness from the olive oil, pungent depth from the garlic, and drawn together perfectly by the essence of the tomato.

Spaghetti with Salsa Crudo

All in all, I think I did pretty well.

I'm still very much looking to having Sherry back tomorrow, though.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Magic Fridge - Now With Beer!

Beer Meat and Cheese Fridge

So, the already magic meat and cheese curing fridge got a bit more magical.

I see your meat and cheese. And I raise you beer!

The meat at the moment is a bit meager - just a few kielbasa hanging for a bit to tighten up, and the cheese is currently hidden away in side drawers. The beer, on the other hand, is going full steam.

We have two batches on tap in the magic fridge - a Belgian Tripel IPA (which I am sure will get its own post in future) and a kegged version of our Piggish IPA.

Freedom from bottling is a wonderful thing!

All hail the magic fridge!