Baby Zuchinni in the garden

Summer Cooking

Birth in the Garden

Luckily we planted only one zucchini plant in our garden. As of last week a beautiful baby zucchini has been born each day. And the quest for treating it as something useful and worthwhile has become a daily challenge in a very short time. While the tomatoes linger on the vine we have zucchini exuberance. I am clearly wishing it were a cucumber instead.

Though having zucchini as a daily vegetable will not endure, we are still enjoying having something fresh from the garden. If you are facing a similar fate then you will enjoy these brief variations on a zucchini sauté.

Tangy Zucchini

1-2 medium zucchini (fresh from the garden) sliced into diagonal ovals
olive oil as desired or a combination of butter and olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves minced
thin strips of lemon zest and some lemon juice (use a zester tool)
salt and pepper (light on the pepper)
chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano or thyme or a mixture

Gently sauté the zucchini ovals and garlic in the butter and olive oil until lightly golden and tender. Add lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and a bit of fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle with your choice of herbs and serve.

Zucchini Mélange

olive oil as desired
1/2 medium Walla Walla Sweet onion sliced in half circles
 1-2  medium (fresh from the garden) zucchini cut down the length and sliced
 1/4  yellow pepper seeded and thinly sliced
 1/4  orange bell pepper seeded and thinly sliced
 salt as desired
 freshly shredded basil or your choice of herbs

Gently sauté the onion in olive oil until tender and lightly browned. Add the yellow and orange pepper slices and briskly sauté until tender. Add the zucchini. Cook until tender but still a bright green. Season with salt. Sprinkle with freshly shredded basil or your choice of herbs and serve.

Zucchini in Fresh Tomato Sauce

1/2  onion chopped
1 small stalk of celery minced
 1-2  garlic cloves minced
 a richly flavored olive oil as desired
 1  pound seeded freshly chopped tomatoes (Skin them if you wish.)
 1  bayleaf
 oregano and fresh basil to taste
salt as needed
 1-2  medium zucchini cut down the length in quarters and sliced thickly

The point here is to make a fresh tomato sauce with tomatoes from your garden or from your neighborhood farmer’s market.

Sauté the onion and celery until tender. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Be sort of generous with the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and oregano and simmer until lightly thickened to create your own fresh tomato sauce. Add the basil. Season with salt as desired. Add the zucchini and braise until tender and succulent. Enjoy!!

Copyright: alinamd / 123RF Stock Photo

Too Much Pepper?

Hold the Pepper?

I wonder if I would be happy with my cooking without black pepper.

I am sending you to an article that you may find controversial. It is titled “Why I haven’t cooked with black pepper for years.” I was intrigued when I ran into it. So I decided to look at this alternate point of view. In some ways I find myself agreeing with the premise. However, I rarely say “never” unless I really mean it. And I was left wondering if white pepper was included in this decision.

I like black pepper and white pepper and pepper in general. But when I am working with students I find myself counseling them to be less aggressive with black pepper. It is a dominating and assertive condiment. And I find that the less experienced a cook is, the more likely they are to really hit a dish with too many grates of pepper. It sort of makes you feel like a cook to grab that pepper mill and grind away happily, frequently followed by the commentary “ I like pepper.” Or I like “hot peppers.” “Or I like Sriracha sauce.” “ Or I like spicy food.”

In the world of fine cooking subtlety is a key word. How do the many ingredients in a dish speak to each other and cooperate to create a delicious message. It is part of the mystery of cooking when a certain spice or herb gently speaks to you as a cooperative part of the nuance of a well-prepared dish. A chef is rarely acclaimed for overwhelming flavors. It is sort of like creating a painting with all red paint. Not much mystery there to engage you.

A fine cook uses taste to evaluate their cooking. They are interested in how their creation communicates with the diner. Is it overwhelming or only speaking only with a “two note” message? Or does the dish continue to engage you as you move from bite to bite, with an element of subtlety or surprise?

I do not know about you, but I am more likely to reject a dish that is overwhelming or simply too bold.

This weekend my son and I tried a new restaurant in the neighborhood. There was a lot that I liked about what we were served. We ordered a side dish of Okra with Tomato Sauce. With my first bite I found the okra totally overwhelmed by a heavy tomato sauce. I was looking forward to the tender subtleties of okra (believe it or not) and I found this dish disappointing. It was simply out of balance.

Too much pepper can have the same result.

Ripe, Juicy Peaches

Summer Stone Fruit

Is it time to give up on early summer grocery store stone fruit?

How long will it take for us to give in to the fact that fruit should ripen without rotting and that we should not have to eat it rock hard and sour. “ How pretty they are sitting in the grocery store display all lined up and looking good. I start the summer season by buying only one peach, nectarine, apricot or plum and placing it on my kitchen counter. Surely, with that lovely blush of color this firm fruit should soften and melt in your mouth at first bite. The juices should drip down your chin. It should bring sweet joy and wonder instead of sour, hard disappointment.

Part of the problem is our urgent desire. The stores we love and trust encourage us. How they want to please us. And we are so anxious to start the season. And they are caught between seasons. We are tired of winter fruit. An apple or pear will no longer tantalize our palette. So as each summer fruit appears out of nowhere we are ready and willing to have it.

But the question becomes from where did it come? How far away? How soon was it pulled from the tree? How long has it travelled refrigerated and cold? Why is it here so early? Washington State is a great producer of tree fruits. Does the tree in your yard have mature ripe fruit right now? Not likely. Even your Aunt Em’s tree in Eastern Washington does not have ripe and ready tree fruits yet.

So this is where your neighborhood Farmer’s Market comes into play. They should want to sell you “ripe and ready” fruit. And if they do not have it, then it is not ready. This is also where a place like the Pike Place Market tells the story. If it is the right time it may not be in a mixed produce display. It will be on a stand that has only one thing “ripe peaches or nectarines or apricots that have just been picked at their peak.

I am sorry you have to wait for the real time. However, please don’t let your children accept crisp and sour fruit when it should be succulent, sweet, juicy and wonderful. We are not a very patient market consumer. When we want it, we want it now. (Hopefully without the tantrum.)

It is currently cherry, strawberry, raspberry time. Plunge deeply and deliciously into these fruits. But for tree fruits like peaches and apricots wait a while.

Be patient and the rewards will be great soon!

Strawberry Jam

Let’s Make Jam

Washington strawberries are so different than the berries in the stores the rest of the year.

They are dark red, almost black, tender, juicy and a combination of sweet and tart. Really they are perfect for homemade jam.

It would seem I am exceedingly engrossed in strawberries. But I did promise a Strawberry Jam recipe and I am trying to gather it all together.

I am a jam maker. My specialties are apricot, strawberry, an occasional raspberry and fig (since my son has a most marvelous 2 story fig tree in his back yard.) I am a staunch traditionalist. I can still see my mother lingering near the gas stove nursing a pot of jam. So I resist the alternate jams such as freezer jam. I actually make preserves or conserves to be technical. Jams that may still have whole pieces of fruit beautifully candied and translucent.

There is a sacrifice to that. You cannot candy a fruit and have it be the same color as raw fruit. It will be deep and dark and will best show its translucent color as it is spread across a slice of toast. Oh my, yum. I am resisting the toaster and the jam in the fridge at this very moment.

I make large pots of jam. That takes experience and valor. If you scorch a big pot of jam you are undone. So I frequently suggest and still love to make small pots of jam. It is easy to see the bottom of a 2 quart pot and rare to scorch this size batch. My favorite strawberry jams have been made from small batches from berries from my garden.

Click here to see:

Louise’s Small Batch Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Louise’s Small Batch Strawberry Jam

1 quart(4 cups) local fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice

Give your fruit a light rinse to remove any soil that clings. Use as little water as possible and drain thoroughly. Slice the large berries into halves or quarters. Keep small berries whole or halved. Pile them into a heaping 1 quart measuring cup. Measure 4 cups sugar and layer the fruit in a heavy 2-1/2 – 3 quart saucepan alternating layers of fruit and sugar. Start with the first cup of fruit first. (I know it is daring to use this much sugar but it is necessary and it makes a better jam!)

Heat the fruit and sugar gently on low to medium heat until the sugar melts and liquefies. Occasionally stir very gently with a wooden spoon. Gently bring this mixture to a boil stirring only often enough to be sure that the fruit is not sticking or scorching on the bottom of the pot.

As the mixture to the boils watch it as it will rise and form a foamy top. Lower the heat to medium or medium high keeping a low boil. With a metal spoon gently lift away the sticky whitish foam. This is the impurities of the sugar and should be removed. The jam should gently boil until slightly thickened with glossy candied fruit.

Deciding when jam is done is an art. You are told to put droplets of the jam liquid on a cold china plate. After it cools the droplet should not run away when the plate is tipped. And if you take the cold droplet between your fingers it should be sticky and a bit thickened. Experience will lead you in the best direction. Strawberry jam should have plump fruit that is translucent bound by a thickened liquid. Use your best judgment.

Once you decide to stop cooking the jam let it sit and cool briefly to plump up the fruit and balance the fruit with the liquid. Meanwhile wash the jam jars in hot water. Dip the jars in boiling water to sterilize them. Lift out with clean tongs. (You may also wash the jars in the dishwasher and use them when they are hot). Put the jar lids in water that has been brought to the boil but removed from the heat.

Cut the bottom off a paper or plastic cup and put it on the top of a ½ pint canning jar, Spoon the jam into the jar. The paper cup with keep the inner rim of the jar clean. Fill the jar but leave a 1/2 -3/4 inch space at the top. Clean any drips.

With tongs place the hot lid on the jar and screw the ring down until just set. Do not tighten the ring. You may then process the filled jars of jam to complete the seal.

To process the jars fill a deep large pan with water. Set the sealed jam jars in the water with at least 2 inches of water above. Bring the water to the boil and boil for about 15 minutes. Lift the jars from the water bath with a pair of tongs. Set them aside on a towel to cool. As the jars seal you will hear them click downward. This is your seal.

Store your jam on the shelf in a dark space or refrigerate them if you wish. Though it is not necessary I like to refrigerate my jams in my spare refrigerator. They hold their color better and last much longer than on the shelf.

Enjoy and share your jams with friends!

White Micarta made from Linen

What is White Micarta?

White Micarta is the trademark of Norplex-Micarta, and is the term often used to describe a phenolic laminate.

Although difficult to make skilled artisans impregnate layers of white linen with epoxy and press them under high pressure. The result is a stunning product that is truly a work of art.

Theirs Issard has chosen to make their knives with these handles because of their beauty, elegance and resilience.

Bon Vivant is proud to import White Micarta!

Read more…

3 pc Task Knife Set

Why Use a Specific Task Knife?

The right tool for the right job.

Summer is a season of specifics. Tasks that you may not do much all year come up and set you on a quest for just the right knife.

The tomato season can be quite short. But when it shows up, you want a sharp knife for those perfectly thick rounds of succulent ripe summer tomatoes.

Learn more about specific task knives and then save 10% when you purchase our new 3 pc Task Knife Set.

Read more Great French Knives.

Copyright: markstout / 123RF Stock Photo

Time For Strawberry Shortcake

Sugar Scones with Strawberries & Cream

4 cups flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter (3/4 cup)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
additional granulated sugar as needed

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly butter a large, heavy baking sheet and set aside.

Combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt, and sift them into a large bowl. Cut the butter into 4 long sticks. Cut across the sticks to create 1/4 inch thick butter pats. Add the chilled butter bits to the flour mixture. Rub the butter between the fingertips with the flour in a smearing action until a combination of flakes and coarse meal is formed.

Beat the eggs well and blend them with the milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the beaten eggs and milk. Leave a small amount of the liquid behind (1 teaspoon or so). Stir the dough with a fork until it can be gathered into a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it. As you knead, add the reserved 1/2 cup flour, a little at a time, or until the dough is firm but slightly sticky. You may not use all of the flour.

On a clean lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle that is 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Coat the top with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle lightly with some granulated sugar. Dip a knife into flour and cut the dough into 8-12 equal triangles. Transfer them to the baking sheet leaving one inch or more space between them. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes or until they are puffed, brown, and firm to the touch. Cool briefly.

1 quart sliced strawberries lightly sugared
1 pint freshly whipped cream (Use some powdered sugar if you wish.)
additional powdered sugar as desired

Split the scones horizontally. Spoon some of the strawberries on the bottom half of the scone. Top it generously with whipped cream. Place the upper half of the scone on top. Add more berries and cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar as desired and serve.

Copyright: jirkaejc / 123RF Stock Photo

Kosher Salt & Sea Salt

Use a Variety of Salts

What’s the difference between sea salt and kosher salt? Which one should I use?

Ann R.

Your Answer:

Sea salt is a more finely milled salt that comes from many locations around the world. Each location can have its own distinct, texture, flavor and color. Though you may use sea salt on a daily basis, Chefs frequently use these different salts as finishing salts. An example would be a lovely summer salad with greens from the garden. Just as the salad is about to be served it is sprinkled with a special sea salt that heightens the flavor.

A majority of chefs use kosher salt for daily cooking. It is more coarsely milled, is more uniform in texture, and is less salty than sea salt. Cooks find kosher salt easier to manage in a consistent way. At Bon Vivant we use Kosher salt on a daily basis. We recommend Diamond Kosher salt found in boxes in the spice department at your store.

read

Copyright: yatomo / 123RF Stock Photo

Enjoy Fresh Salmon!

Fresh From Alaska!

4-6 6 ounce Wild Salmon Fillets
1-2 lemons sliced in thin circles
olive oil, melted butter or mayonnaise as needed
some fresh garden herbs of choice such as: dill, tarragon, chives
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
a touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

We suggest you serve 6-8 ounces of salmon fillets per person. If you have other courses a 6 ounce fillet is plenty. If you have out of town guests they will probably be able to eat 8 ounces just out of desire.

Place the fillets on a foil lined bake sheet skin side down. Lightly coat the top of each fillet with olive oil, melted butter or mayonnaise. Sprinkle with your fresh garden herbs of choice (fresh chives, dill, tarragon) and season with salt and pepper. Copper River salmon is rich and full of natural oils and flavor. It does not need much to be moist and luscious. Lay thin, large lemon circles on the top of the fillets, about 2 slices for each fillet will do.

Bake the salmon for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Around 12 to 15 minutes is usual. Slide your spatula along the skin and lift the fillet to the plate. Remove the lemon slices and serve.

Guidelines for doneness: The meat should feel firm, but tender to the touch.. If the fish flakes it is too well done. Follow the 10 minute rule with an oven that is heated from 400 to 450 degrees. Remember less cooking is better. Enjoy!!!