Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer is Over

Today was the first day of school. I think I've posted twice since school let out--what in the world have I been doing? I had envisioned this summer to be warm, sunny days spent digging, planting, weeding and pruning in the backyard; afternoons filled with childrens' laughter and shrieks of splashing in our little kidney-shaped pool; and fragrant, cool evening walks as the sun sets after a relaxed homemade dinner of food from our yard.

It's been none of those things. Sure, I have poblano and anaheim pepper growing well, and the basil will definitely produce a nice batch of pesto for the freezer. I have a set of plants from the Morningsun Herb Farm that I must get in the ground tomorrow or they'll all be dead. I've been in the pool about three times, maybe four (though last week the guys all went in while I worked in the cool Bay Area). I guess I get out on two walks a week--maybe three.

Anyway, all that said, I haven't been cooking much. And what I have been cooking I haven't photographed. It's the lazy days of summer, I guess.

Yesterday I made chilaquiles with peppers from my backyard and some lovely local tomatoes that I roasted with the peppers. To round out the brunch I decided to make corn soup, as I love corn but the Bug can't eat it off the cob with his temporary front teeth (having flipped over his handle-bars last summer and now has to wait about 6 years to get caps). The corn was from Parker Farms and had just been harvested. It was so sweet and tender and juicy, I almost hated to make it into soup. Almost.

Creamy Corn Soup

Four ears of fresh corn
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup roasted, peeled and diced poblano peppers (use tinned if necessary)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste

Put the bacon on a low pan and allow to get crisp, but not burnt. Drain on paper towel and save two tablespoons of bacon grease. While bacon is cooking, cut corn off the cobs, reserving one ear's worth and putting the other three in a blender. Pulse the blender--be patient. It will take some time for the kernels to get down to the blades. Brown the onion in the reserved bacon grease, add garlic and cook until soft. Add all, including any bacon fat in pan, to blender. Add water and cornstarch, and blend well.

In medium soup pot, heat corn mixture and broth on medium, turning to medium low when bubbling. Add more broth if necessary. Cook down to desired consistency; add peppers, remaining corn, and cream. Dice bacon and add to pot. Heat on medium/medium-low, stirring well, for about 10 minutes, or until hot. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Adjust liquid levels to taste as well.

Serve with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and diced red bell pepper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Never had a clove-scented basil leaf

I'm growing basil and cilantro plants--and my cilantro has already gone to flower. But my basil is happy and producing fat leaves. However, I'm unhappy. My sweet basil is very, very strong. It has a much stronger clove scent than other basil plants I've grown in the past.

Did the nursery folks mislabel it? Or have I done something to promote the stronger clove taste in growing it with cilantro? Has something else I've done affected it?

I have to say, I don't like it, which is disappointing. I'd planned on making tons of pesto this summer, and I don't know if it will be to my liking.