No, it isn't a new Zynga game... unless they've invaded not only my Facebook page but my kitchen as well! Rather, I pick up blogging this fine holiday to provide, once again, insight into my tiny kitchen. The story actually begins last week when in 100+ degree heat, I wanted my friends to go blueberry picking in New Hope, PA with me. As it was rather last minute (and rather warm), I was convinced to hold out until this weekend. So yesterday, every roused from bed for a 9:30 meeting time in Skippack, we headed to my favorite (and the only one I've truly been to more than once) Solebury Orchards. Sadly, I left my camera in the car and couldn't be bothered to go back to get it, so no pictures this trip (but as those of you who know me already know, I go several times a year). An hour or so later three very warm and blueberry stained women loaded up the car with our bounties and headed into New Hope proper for lunch. Note: we each also procured a delicious cup of cider-ice to refresh with... and though yours truly had multi-brain freezes it was worth it!!
Once in New Hope, we headed to Spring & Vine, a new restaurant which touts a completely welcoming vegan menu. My first real experience in a vegetarian restaurant since switching to a vegan diet over 2 months ago, I was truly giddy with the thought that I could eat anything on the menu--and was not stuck with a sad salad that I had to ask for half the items to be removed. First up were the potato house fries served with grain mustard aioli, which were almost literally inhaled. I'm not a huge fan of fries, but I'm a sucker for grain mustard... and so I ordered these babies. They were terrific; dusted in a garlicky, paprika kind of spice mixture and cooked to just the right level of crispness. Unlike most of my fry endeavors, there were no leftovers.
And then came my sandwich... an Oyster mushroom po'boy. Having never had a po'boy before because traditional versions contain seafood's I have never liked, I wasn't sure what to expect, but much like how I ordered the fries, I am a sucker for anything with mushrooms and pickles. Half of this sandwich would have been more than enough, but it was sooooooo good, I ate almost the entire thing--which I regretted later when I wanted something around dinner time when the other half would have been perfect. Besides, walking in the mid-80 degree weather when you've eaten just a tad too much is never a good thing. That said, we survived and will definitely make this place a must stop when in New Hope. Heck, it may be a reason to go to New Hope for a day!
That brings me to this morning and nearly 8 pounds of blueberries. For those not on the East Coast and not aware that our heat indexes are going to be in the hundreds again for the next several days, you wouldn't think the next few things a tad on the crazy side (or maybe you would, it's all in how you define crazy). After lounging around bed this morning not wanting to get up before 8 on a Sunday, the thought suddenly occurred to me--a cool morning!! So I quickly got up and headed to the kitchen to take advantage of the cooler part of the day. Not only were there 8 pounds of berries, there was also a good pound of chickpeas soaking from the day before that needed to be cooked.
Misstep #1 (we won't count the previous day--this post is long enough): No research prepared.
In a typical day set aside for cooking, I have my research and plans already laid out--especially in the summer when the window for morning cool breezes are small and the apartment can survive an hour or so of cooking sans the air conditioning. That was not today's case. Yes, I knew I wanted to make some jam and some muffins, but I discounted the beans and hadn't thought through to much more. Also, I've never made jam before... nor have I made vegan muffins. So, an hour of time was wasted while I perused cookbooks and various foodie blogs. In the end I decided on the following: Pectin free blueberry jam (because I had no pectin), lemon blueberry muffins (for which I had no recipe but instead was going to use a cranberry orange bread recipe as a guide), corn pancakes with blueberries.
Misstep #2: All new recipes.
This typically isn't a misstep except for the timing issue. When you have most of a morning or all day and aren't trying to coordinate 4-5 things at the same time, introducing three new recipes into a very small kitchen isn't a huge deal. But when you have about an hour (90 minutes tops) before the heat of the day creeps in, this isn't the smartest or stress-free of cooking decisions. Most items were timed to be ready around the same time... the beans I had started so they would be done about 5 minutes before the muffins and jam--but that didn't provide me with ample time to take care of them before needed to jar the jam. Nor did it leave me with space for the jam once the muffins were out of the oven. So as I juggled the beans, muffins and jam jars on a kitchen counter of a few feet space, I was also trying to master what I'm sure is an the art of the corn pancakes. I think, somewhere toward the last few, I figured it out, which leads me to...
Misstep #3: I NEED A CREPE PAN!!
Every cook knows that the key to getting some things right is having the right equipment. This isn't to say you need all the weird and obscure little gadgets available (you will never see me buy an apple corer for instance). I've long avoided the procurement of a crepe pan thinking that any old cast iron pan I have will suffice. WRONG! The single most issue I had with the corn pancakes (once I figured out the proper cook time) was the sides of the pan getting in the way of flipping. The sides also proved a challenge in that when the batter got too close, it didn't cook evenly. So, unless someone is looking to buy me a nice expensive gift for no reason whatsoever, I will be saving my pennies and investing in a cast iron crepe pan in the near future... which will only add to my already crowded kitchen, but will be worth every bit of space it consumes.
Despite the big missteps of the morning, and being a sweaty mess at the end because of the increasing temps outside and the stress inside, my experiments seem to have paid off. The muffins--a gamble to be sure--turned out incredible. The corn pancakes are a nice, light alternative to the heavy all wheat sister I reserve for autumn and winter months. The jam... well, that's still an unknown, but I don't think you can go wrong with that--even if it ends up too runny, it will make an excellent base for sorbet, or a topping to some oatmeal, vegan ice cream or waffles.
1 day ago