PRESERVING SUMMER

Strawberry Preserves | for the love of the south

May means the beginning of strawberry season. Strawberries are the first fruit to kick off the parade of summer produce. A procession of peaches, blackberries, muscadines and figs quickly follow. I finally finished writing and editing my cookbook and am in desperate need of sunshine and loads of preserving. Preserving seems to unsettle some, but to me it’s relaxing. I love gathering quilted glass jars and watching them reflect in the morning light onto my white marble countertops, listening to the blip, blip, blip of the strawberries as they schmooze with the melting vanilla sugar. In a matter of moments, the kitchen fills with a fragrant cloud of sweet strawberries. To me, preserving is a practical, tangible way of suspending a moment in time before it has a chance to pass me by.

Preserving | for the love of the south

Whenever I bring strawberries home, I tip them into a bowl filled with 1 part distilled white vinegar to 4 parts cold water. Let them sit in the vinegar water for 10 minutes. Swish the berries around and rinse well in cold water. Line a rimmed baking sheet or plate with paper towels and allow the berries to air dry in a single layer. If you aren’t using the berries that day, cover loosely with paper towels and stash them away in the fridge for 3-5 days. (The vinegar water cleans the berries and keeps the berries fresh for a few days.) To hull the strawberries, take a paring knife in one hand and a strawberry stripped of its leaves in the other. Spin the strawberry around the tip of the paring knife, removing the green stem and white column in the center of the berry.

Strawberries | for the love of the south

I love serving these preserves on hot toast slathered with butter, or on waffles, pancakes and French toast. They are beautiful folded into softly whipped cream or spooned over vanilla ice cream for effortless summertime desserts.

Strawberry Preserves | for the love of the south

Strawberry & Vanilla Bean Preserves

Adapted from Canal House Cooks Everyday

Makes 4, half-pint jars

Note: The lemon peel serves two purposes. The first is for flavor, but the second is the most important. Strawberries, like most soft fruits, are low in pectin, but citrus pith is high in pectin. (It’s what gives marmalades that beautiful jelly-like consistency.) Make sure you don’t skip on the pith!

1½ cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out

4 cups organic strawberries, washed and hulled, larger berries cut in half

Peel of 1 lemon, including the white pith (See Note)

 

Blitz granulated sugar and the vanilla bean seeds in a food processor for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Tumble the hulled strawberries in a heavy-bottomed pot. Fold in half of the sugar and bring to boil over medium-high heat stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Fold in the remaining vanilla sugar and boil for another 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift the berries from the syrup and lower them into a shallow bowl. Add the lemon peel to the syrup and bring to boil for 8-10 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened. Remove from the heat. Let the syrup cool slightly, and then slide the berries back in the syrup. Cover and set aside at room temperature, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove the lemon peel and ladle the preserves in sterilized jars and stash away in the fridge up to 1 month.

 

 

 

BASIL BOUQUETS & ALL-CLAD GIVEAWAY

Basil Pesto Handkerchief Pasta | for the love of the south

My bedroom window opens to a view of a small garden. Since we moved into our house in the dead of winter, I must admit I didn’t think much of our neighbor’s garden. But this past week, I found myself standing at the window each morning, watching our dear neighbor, Lilly, in her oversized straw hat and daisy print gardening gloves tending to the garden.

If you walk down the stone pathway lined with violets, hyacinths, and lilies, you will be greeted into the garden with the warm scent of honey coming from a fig tree. It’s sprawling branches and leaves act as an umbrella. A sort of safe haven in the center of the garden. Past the fig tree is a raised bed dedicated to tomatoes: cherry and grape tomatoes, yellow pear-shaped ones, fat beefsteak and elongated Romas. The raised bed closest to the fence that divides our lots is filled, and I mean filled, with basil. That’s it. Just basil. Our fence is covered with grapevines and tiny grape clusters, which remind me of baubles I used to find in my grandmother’s jewelry box.

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I caught Lilly’s eye from my bedroom window, and we waved to each other. She pointed to the massive bed of basil and cupped her hands to her mouth, “I can’t imagine a summer without basil, can you?”  I shook my head and smiled in complete agreement.

The next morning, I opened my front door and found a lovely bouquet, not of freshly picked flowers, but of basil, and a note that read “… so you’re prepared for the summer. –Lilly”

Basil Pesto Pasta | for the love of the south

{GIVEAWAY | To enter the All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel All-In-One Pan Giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite summertime dishes between now and midnight, June 2nd. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on June 3rd. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please!}

Basil Pesto Handkerchief Pasta | for the love of the south

 

Handkerchief Pasta with Basil Pesto

Serves 2

Note: You can make the basil pesto ahead of time and just stash it in the fridge to have on hand for a quick and easy meal. Also, the pasta can be made ahead. Once you have rolled out and cut the pasta, place the fresh pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, stack the frozen pasta in a gallon-sized freezer bag and stash away until you are ready to boil! 

200g all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only

¾ cup olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Extra virgin olive oil, to finish

Sea salt & black pepper, to season

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour and a pinch of sea salt. Blend together with fingertips and create a well in the center. Add eggs to the well. Mix on a low speed until the dough comes together. Switch to dough hook attachment and knead until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough wraps around the hook, about 3-5 minutes. The dough will be soft and smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the pesto.

In a mortar and pestle or a food processor, add garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Add red pepper flakes and basil leaves. Pound or pulse the ingredients together, forming a paste. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Continue mixing together, tasting as you go. Once the pesto is perfectly seasoned, set aside.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces; slightly flatten making it easier to pass through the pasta machine. Pass pasta through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Fold in half and pass through 9 more times, dust with a little flour as needed.

Decrease the pasta machine to ½ the thickness and pass through twice.

Decrease the pasta machine setting again to the 2nd to last thinnest setting and pass through the pasta machine once. Repeat with the rest of the pasta. Lay sheets on a tea towel.

Bring a pot of water to boil and season the water with salt. Cut the sheets into square handkerchiefs.

(Now, this next step happens quickly so ready a strainer to drain the pasta by the sink, a small mug to reserve a little pasta water for the sauce, and warm a few pasta bowls!)

Toss the fresh pasta into the water and boil for just a few minutes, or until the pasta floats to the top. Scoop out about ½ cup of the pasta water. Set aside. Drain pasta.

In a large pan over medium high heat, add the basil pesto. Once the pesto heats through, add the drained pasta along with a small amount of the reserved pasta water. Toss, toss, toss! If you notice the pasta needs more sauce, add a few more drops of pasta water.

Toss into warmed pasta bowls, scatter with more parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves!