Sunday, August 19, 2007

News Bulletin

The Smokehouse Grill closed a few months ago. As per the signs, Taste is due to replace it. I'll miss the place.

The lovely Italian bakery down the street from my place has also closed. A fajita place will be opening there. I will also miss the cream puffs.

I will endeavor to review both new places when they open.


Perking up the end days of summer

For most Americans summer means one very important thing: barbeque.

The Fiance definitely can't get enough of grilled burgers and hotdogs and steaks.

I however tend to get bored of it all pretty easily. Maybe it's that I'm an immigrant and didn't see my first burgers until I was 9.

My parents however got into the barbeque thing too. They bought a giant, shiny gas grill and proudly positioned it in the back yard. As my mother believes I am the queen of marinades, it generally falls to me to prep anything she didn't buy pre-marinated.

Yesterday that was the shrimp. I love shrimp. I think they're sweet, delicious morsels of yumminess. That was what inspired me. I apologize for lack of amounts but I never measure.

-1lb peeled, deveined shrimp
-good splash of olive oil
-good splash of ume plum vinegar
-healthy dash of basil
-crushed up bay leaf or two
-pinch or two of paprika
-salt and pepper to taste
-crushed and minced garlic, 4-5 cloves (add or subtract to taste)
-small splash of lemon juice
(I didn't have any cayenne but I would have added a little if I did.)

Mix up the marinade in a bowl. Dump in the shrimp. You want for there to be about a half cup of marinade on the bottom of the bowl as the shrimp absorbs the marinade slowly and what is left over should be used to baste the shrimp as they grill. Give it about a half hour to sit before putting the shrimp on skewers (if they're wooden skewers, soak them beforehand for a few hours) and plopping them on the grill. Baste them occasionally and cook until opaque and pink.

Serve the shrimp as an appetizer or over a fresh spinach salad with an oil and vinegar dressing.

I got a lot of requests for the recipe from family but I merely smiled mysteriously and so should you. After all they won't be impressed when they find out how easy it is.

Happy Grilling!

Saving Summer

Long Island manages to exist in a lovely dichotomy, so close to both the busy urban streets of New York and the serene farms of the Forks. It is the farms that interest me this weekend. It's an open secret that I absolutely adore stone fruits, especially peaches. I've been begging my friend Knight for ages to send me some peaches from Georgia since he lives so near it but alas he has only mocked me.

So this leaves me with a continued dilemma: what do I do when the summer is over and the peaches are out of season, from California and taste like cardboard?

The answer, as it turns out, is pretty obvious: JAM!

There is a great farm-strand in my town, down on Lakeland Ave, somewhere between Montauk and Sunrise. The friendly folk sell bright cherry tomatoes, tempting ears of corn, many other veggies and currently... peaches and nectarines.

I have never made jam before so I enlisted my friend Lensherr. We picked out a lb of white peaches, which are sweeter but not as peachy flavored as the yellow ones, and three lbs of the yellow ones. Then we got about 2 lbs of nectarines. On a lark, we picked up two boxes of strawberries and one box of blueberries to make nectarine-berry jam.

There is a home goods store in Sayville on Montauk, Four Star, I think. It had the jars, the pectin, the funnel, and tongs. We improvised with pots I already had.

Stone fruits as it turns out must be skinned. You have two options. You can use a peeler or you can pop them in boiling water for a minute then upend them into a pot with water and ice to stop the cooking process and the skins should come off easily. We peeled. It was a ridiculous sight with the ripe fruits leaking their juices onto our clothes and hands and peels flying everywhere, my cat curiously poking at the ones landing near him.

Then we had to chunk up the fruit. Somehow Lensherr cut his hand on a pit and I dropped a knife on my foot. Somehow we managed to get two pots, one full of chunky cut peaches and the other chunky cut nectarines. A note on the size of the chunks: if you don't own an immersion blender, do yourself a favor and cut the fruit very small.

We then cut the green off the strawberries, sliced them and threw them and the blueberries in with the nectarines.

At the same time, we drowned the jars and lids in a big pot and set it to boiling.

So there we were, water heating to sterilize jars, and two pots full of fruit. Despite what your intuition tells you, you don't need to add water to the fruit. You just need to add pectin and sugar at a 1:.5 ratio. We edged on the safe side and used three packages of pectin between the two pots though the instructions claim it should be a 1 to 1 ratio. Better safe than sorry though I think. Then we let them cook. They cooked. And cooked. And cooked. And still looked chunky.

At this point I had an epiphany and we demolished those chunks with a handy immersion blender. As the jam was now boiling, we added about three cups of sugar to each pot. You can add a bit less or more considering how sour the fruit you're using is. Lensherr skimmed off any foam and we let it come to boil again.

Then Lensherr fished out the sterilized jars (I don't handle the hot stuff cause I burn myself... all the time), placed a funnel on the first one and slowly ladled the very very hot sticky goo into it. We ended up with 2 12oz jars of each and about a cup of the nectarine-berry jam leftover. He then placed the lids on and screwed on rings. When the jars cooled, we put them in the closet, where they can live for about 3-6 months.

Mission accomplished and a lot easier than we expected.