Monday, July 13, 2015

pitting cherries with a paper clip

This past weekend I brought a cherry strudel to a party. The hard part about making a strudel is stretching a ball of dough this size:

to this size:

Notice that the dough is so thin you can see the tablecloth through it. The dough is stretched by pulling and easing here and there, running your knuckles underneath, fanning your fingers. It takes some practice. Making the dough a day ahead increases the gluten in the flour so it's more elasticky. It's on a tablecloth because you lift the tablecloth to roll up the strudel once it's filled with fruit.

Nobody at the party understood that the dough was the real feat. The ones who were interested in baking (which not everyone is) were astounded that I pitted the cherries by hand. Didn't I use a machine? Did it take me hours?

I didn't use a machine. It did not take me hours.

I told them cherries could be pitted with a paper clip. I'd never tried it, but I'd heard it could be done. Someone went off to find a paper clip and some cherries. I was asked to demonstrate.

Yeah, it does rather mangle the cherries. A machine would probably give you cherries with a hole like a pitted olive. But if you're making pie or strudel, the cherries get cooked.

What I normally use at home is the pick that comes with a nutcracker.

If you're hoping for a photo of how I rolled up the strudel, sorry, I was alone at home. Holding a camera while rolling a strudel doesn't work.

If I had to give a prize for the best cooking/baking feat of the evening, it would be for the home-made lamb sausages--and the birthday cake formed as an island in the ocean with the birthday gal reclining on a deck chair, a book called Life Begins at 50 in the sand beside her. Her luscious, curlicued figure had been fashioned out of a pipe cleaner.

Here's a man who makes stretching strudel dough look really easy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

solace in the garden

Even when you're sweating and grubby and stooped over and straining your back, there's solace in the garden. There just is.

You brush against the basil and smell basil. You pick a snow pea and munch it.

Here I seeded some bee-attracting flowers because I thought there was room when the tomato plants were still tiny, but now the flowers are in with the tomatoes--which is okay, but my garden doesn't look as nice and orderly as some of the others.

The beans haven't started blooming yet, but they're wound up the stakes I tied with pink cord to help me see them. I keep stabbing myself on stakes.

Behind the beans are beets. In the foreground is a stray calendula another gardener gave me. Calendula oil has beneficial properties but I'm not going to make oil from a single plant, so it gets to have a carefree, flower-in-the-sun existence.

There's also arugula, some carrots, Scotch bonnets, rhubarb, red lettuce, onions, eggplant, green pepper, purslane, and a corner patch of blue cornflowers. VoilĂ : mon jardin.