Thursday, July 14, 2016

Perfectly Pretty Summer Plum Sorbet

The Vivid Pink of a Fresh Plum Sorbet
Sometimes plums are sweet and sometimes they can be tart, but most of the plums I get tend to be a little of both. Occasionally they can even be bitter. Like that time I had to dump an entire pan of plum cobbler because some of the plums were so bitter that, even after mixing with sugar and baking with a nice sweet biscuit-y topping... the whole thing was inedible.

Faced with less than perfectly sweet fruits, sorbets are an easy way to control the sweet/tart balance and come out with something delicious in spite of their random ripeness. And I can think of no better way to celebrate the essential flavor of a lovely seasonal fruit than to feature it in a clean, direct, super-intense sorbet. Fresh and refreshing, it's nothing short of cool perfection on a warm summer evening.

Of course, I don't think making a sorbet from those horrid plums I had four years ago could have tamed their bitterness, but I would've realized the fact sooner (and saved a whole lot of effort, ingredients, and disappointment). And of course, tasting it as I went along would have also saved me from all that, but some lessons (cough) are best learned the hard way.

Pretty Plum (Sorta) Sorbet 
Start this a day or even two before you "need" it... and make sure your ice cream maker insert is pre-frozen. Though not traditional in a sorbet, adding milk will give it a creamier texture and increase the yield... which incidentally, is about 2 pints.


1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
1 pound ripe plums (9-10), pitted and roughly chopped.
1 pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp liqueur or spirit of choice (see Notes)
1 cup cold whole milk

  1. Put sugar, water, plums, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. All the sugar should be dissolved and the fruit should be soft. Carefully pour into a wide-mouth quart mason jar. Let cool, then cap it and put it in the fridge overnight.
  2. Next day, blend the cold plum mixture thoroughly with a stick blender, right in the jar. 
  3. Add the lemon juice and liqueur and blend well. Then add the milk and give it another good blending.
  4. Turn on your machine and add the plum mixture according to your machine directions. Churn until the texture is where you want it (mine took about 30 minutes, yours may take more or less time).
  5. Transfer finished sorbet into freezer containers and store in freezer. Some say it's best to serve sorbets immediately, but I like the texture better the following day, especially if the weather is warm.
Notes: Depending on the intensity of your fruit, you may, or may not, taste the tiny bit of booze in the finished sorbet. Use something like vodka or white rum for less intrusion, or try one that has a flavor which is complementary to the fruit(s) you're using. I used Cointreau (orange liqueur) as I thought it would go well with plums (and I was right!). Whether you taste it in the end product or not, don't leave it out! It's there for a reason: it prevents the sorbet from freezing rock hard. And that really is what it looks like when it's finished! Leaving the skins on the plums gives it that amazing color.

My recipe is adapted from the following delicious sources...
  • Sweet Plum Sorbet from Joy The Baker 
  • Here's a twist on the JTB recipe above: Muscavado Blueberry Plum Sorbet from Simple Bites
  • There's a lovely recipe in the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook for Plum Sorbet (page 425). Don't have that book? Here's a similar recipe รก la Martha that's online: Plum Sorbet
  • Mark Bittman's original big yellow book, "How To Cook Everything" has a bunch of great tips for making sorbets (pages 669-670).
Bonus Link! ('cuz summer ain't over yet, and neither is plum season!)...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Good To The Last: Chard Pesto on Toast

Using every last bit of the chard...
This may not be the prettiest thing to ever come out of my kitchen... but it's definitely one of the cheapest... and best tasting!

Today I have a couple of questions for you:
  1. Do you sometimes find yourself with a boatload of Swiss Chard?
  2. Are you left wondering what to do with all the thick stems from that chard?
I've been in that boat on more than one occasion. I used to just toss them into the freezer and add them to the pot when I made stock, but now I have another trick up my sleeve... Chard Pesto.

I first read about this simple and delicious stuff a few years ago in the book, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler... and I haven't tossed a single stem in my stockpot ever since. 

Chard Pesto
Not really a recipe, more like just a thing you do when you have a big bunch of chard stems...
  1. Cut them up, then throw them in a pan with some butter or oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Cook them down a fair bit, adding a little water and a lid in the beginning.
  3. Check and give it a stir now and then to see how it's coming along, removing the lid when mostly done.
  4. Take it off the heat once "they" become an "it" (soft and mushy and thick enough to stand on its own)
  5. Let cool it down some (too hot and it will steam the toast, making it soggy).
  6. Pile it onto pieces of toast made from good sturdy bread and grate some Romano or Parm over the top.
It's the kind of thing that is so lacking in attractiveness that you won't want to make it for guests. Once you taste it though, you really won't want to share anyway... so it's just as well. I should also add that it makes a mighty fine dinner on a day when you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blueberries: All's Fair In Love And War

Early June 2016
My Backyard    

Dear Jay, 

I know that no amount of sunflower seeds can take the place of a warm and juicy ripe blueberry bursting in your beak. On this we can agree. But while I respect your above-average avian intelligence, you are, for a few weeks out of every year, my adversary.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. This is war.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Turmeric: For Pain and Inflammation

Turmeric Capsules
If you had told me four years ago that I would one day stop taking ibuprofen... I wouldn't have believed you. If you told me that I would be making my own capsules for pain and inflammation... I would have laughed. And if you told me that I'd be filling those capsules with turmeric, a common pantry spice... I'd just have laughed harder. But here I am not laughing... and not missing my OTC anti-inflammitories one bit.

I feel so much better about how I'm treating my aches and pains, and worry a lot less about any long-term or cumulative effects from my pain-management choices. But that's me, and I'm not here to convince you to change what you're doing. It's just that friends and acquaintances always ask about our switch to turmeric and I figured it would be easier to just steer them here and have the info in one spot.

Scores of others have already written about turmeric and it's many benefits—and done so better than I could—so I won't rehash any of that here. Instead, I will point you to some articles/posts to get you started. After that, if you are at all interested in pursuing it further, I'll link to some sources for supplies.

Start Here...
There is a very thorough blog post on the many benefits of turmeric at Fresh Bites Daily. You can also check out what Doctors Weil, Axe, and Mercola have to say. But don't just take their word for it, do more reading and research on your own before making a decision. It's your body and your health after all.

If you do decide to replace your current NSAID with turmeric, you can either buy pre-filled capsules or fill them yourself. Not a DIY kind of person? You can usually find them ready-made wherever you buy vitamins and supplements. I've seen some great sale prices at (get on their email list, they're always having sales).

You may find it easier on your wallet to make your own. If so, you'll need a capsule machine, empty capsules, and organic turmeric root powder. The capsule machine and empty capsules come in two sizes: "0" (500mg) and "00" (735mg). The empty capsules also are available vegan-style (called "V-Caps" they're made without gelatin). Mountain Rose Herbs has a great video on how to use the capsule machine.

FYI: Turmeric has been used historically as a dye, so don't wear white when working with the powder, and put some paper down on your work surface before you begin. It can and will stain, so wash and scrub your hands immediately after working with it (or wash a sink-full of dishes!).

A Toddy for the Body...
Another option I like is to make a therapeutic hot drink called Golden Milk (or Turmeric Tea, Turmeric Milk, Turmeric Tonic) which works just as well as the caps but is administered via a mug of hot soothing liquid goodness. Here are some recipes and methods to get you started...
Unlocking The Treasure
Whether using the capsules or hot drinks, be sure to take them with a pinch of black pepper and some healthy fat. Turmeric is fat-soluble, so it needs to be consumed with some sort of fat to help your body absorb the nutrients effectively. Black pepper also greatly increases the bioavailability of the compounds in the turmeric.

It's easy to add a bit of coconut oil and a grind of pepper when you're making a turmeric drink, but if you prefer the caps, just remember to take them with meals. If it's not mealtime, I'll have a few nuts or olives, a dab of nut butter, glass of milk or piece of cheese, etc. As for the black pepper, I add some to the turmeric when I make the capsules (or you can even buy them that way). 

Some Sources for Ingredients and Supplies
Whether ready-made or DIY, for one-stop-shopping you can get everything at Mountain Rose Herbs or bulkherbstore. You can also find most everything at Vitacost. Local Sonoma County sources to try are: Oliver's or Sprout's, and in Sebastopol there's a nice little herb shop called Rosemary's Garden that should have everything you need.

One Last Word...
Fresh is best of course, and if you have the means, time, and availability to use fresh turmeric root... all the better! I don't, so I can't relate any favorite recipes etc. for using it in that form, but between the internet and your local library... you should find all the info you need. 

—be well... and stay well!

Big Ol' Disclaimer
I am not a doctor or health professional. I am only relating what I do myself. Take your health seriously and take your personal medical history into account when making any decisions that concern your well-being. Unsure? Talk to your doctor or other trusted health professional. Everyone's different. Results may vary. None of the links in this post are affiliate links. I am not connected with any of the brands, companies, or stores mentioned except as a customer. All opinions are 100% my own. Nothing was given to me for free, or provided for review, etc. Please recycle and do unto others as you would have others do unto you.