The Garden and Outside Stuff in the Heat

It’s so hot.

I know I’ve mentioned that in all recent posts, but oh my God it’s so hot right now. We haven’t had rain in two months, the soil in the garden needs to be MUCH more improved if it’s going to be the single main shelter for all these plants through such tough conditions again next year, and I personally feel like I’m sweating way more than I ever have before- and I was always a pretty sweaty girl.

Continue reading “The Garden and Outside Stuff in the Heat”

Balsamic Vinaigrette and Dressed Greens Recipes

Balsamic Vinaigrette

I can’t remember the last time I bought salad dressing. Due to a 3/4 sized fridge (Only kind that fit in our former garden home and that I’m super stubborn about for some reason since I insist there is plenty of space in it to feed a family of five and I love it so with it’s bottom freezer…) I resent any condiment that takes up the limited door space due to a very simple reason: beer bottles only fits on the doors. I prefer beer to pre-packaged salad dressing. It’s a pretty damn easy equation, honestly.

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Don’t mix this on a plate- but I’m thin on options from the Free Image library… Photo by Peter Fazekas  

Also, this dressing is the damn easiest thing I make and yet it’s one of my favorite. Ratios below are a standard ratio from those packages of salad dressings, but these days I usually just eyeball a smaller amount. But since I don’t have measurements on that… here ya go.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. honey or tiny pinch of sugar
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
generous salt and pepper to taste

I make this in a canning jar to make shaking it easy. Here’s the order to make blending nice and easy: Oil first… then everything else. The only one you want to really watch out for is if you put the honey in first it can get stuck on the bottom of the jar and not incorporate.

Please note- if you make a big batch and put it in the fridge overnight (which you’d need to do… because of the fresh garlic if you’re storing it) the olive oil will set up as a quasi solid and it’ll need to warm up on the counter and shake it up again before the next use. Due to said garlic it will continue to get a bit more “fresh garlic spicy” as time goes by… so I usually only make enough for a couple of days.

How do you use it? As a marinade, drizzled over rice and chicken, over salads… or over dressed greens. What are dressed greens, you say? LET ME TELL YOU!

Dressed Greens

OH MY GOD IS THIS THE BEST SALAD! Here’s how it goes: bowl (I wrote bowel first because of course I did) full of spring greens mix, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and then tossed with your hands. Nothing else in it and it’s a god damn revelation is what it is! Our girls devour it, there is never any left over, and there is no slicing or dicing of other or any ingredients or any nonsense! It feels quasi middle eastern or southern European, and God please just try it. Two things- don’t mix ahead of time because it gets soggy and don’t save it- because it gets soggy.

Pan de Muertos

I know it’s the stereotype and all, but even though I’m female I really hate baking. The cutesy aprons, adorable flour tins, and rainbow cupcake scene just ain’t my bag. Give me pastas and sauces and gravies and roasted veggies and spices. No precise measurements needed- that’s where I’m at home! But baking? Sheesh, recipes have varied instructions based on elevations, and a cup isn’t just a cup… it has to be a sifted cup, or a perfectly level cup, or better yet weigh the ingredients… bah. Also, since I have a generalized disdain for aprons and wear mostly dark t-shirts that much loose flour can be an issue.

But I had pan de muertos to make for Dia de los Muertos. And the thought that the dead wait for no one really kept me to a pretty tight timeline here. Pan de Muertos means BREAD OF THE DEAD!!!!! (but without the overwrought punctuation and capitalization). With a name like that I’m sure a sweet bread that’s great with coffee is like, not what you were picturing. Anyway, I had an offrenda to put this on and so had to make it and did, in fact, quasi enjoy it. I did also, in fact, get flour god damn everywhere.

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I see now I should have made either one loaf or three… two seems like… yeah…

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…like this scene from The Naked Gun, only in bread.

ANYHOO…

Pan/Bread Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup milk

3 Tbsp orange juice

3 cups all purpose flour (don’t get me started on how many different flours there are…)

1 package (1 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp. anise seed

1/4 cup white sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2 Tbsp orange zest

 

Glaze Ingredients

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 Tbsp orange zest

Turn oven on to 325 degrees. Heat milk and butter over medium/low heat till butter melts. Add warm water and a pinch of sugar to a bowl and sprinkle over the yeast to activate it. (Weird bubbling ensues). Zest off the outer peel of an orange with a zester or by carefully slicing and dicing. Once butter is melted into milk remove from heat and let cool a little. In a large bowl add anise seed, 1 cup flour, 2 Tbsp orange zest, sugar, and salt together and then add eggs, yeast, and milk/butter. This is the part where folks would use a stand mixer, but since they sure as hell didn’t have that in 1932 Guanajato Mexico, I mixed by damn hand with a spoon. Here’s the secret though, get that first cup of flour mixed until smooth before adding the rest of the flour slowly until it’s all incorporated.

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I took the picture so I’ll damn well use it

Once it’s all added together it’s a little sticky and a little shaggy looking. Turn out on a lightly floured counter to knead.

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Turns out that’s an assload too much flour

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Then just knead until stretchy and you’re bored

Once the bread is kneaded (5 minutes or so) put back in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.

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I took the picture and I’ll damn well use it

Then once the bread has risen, punch it down and form into loaves. I pulled about 1/4 off and set to the side to do the design on the tops and then divided the remaining dough into two balls. I then made the crossed “bones” and knob on the top (stylized skull? Not sure, but it’s the tradition) by forming it like it was playdough. Then I just pressed them into the top of the balls of dough. (AGAIN, though that’s what I did, maybe form into one big loaf or 3 small ones.) Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, place in the oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes.

While the bread cooks, add the orange juice and sugar to a pot over medium heat and stir to prevent burning. Heat until your glaze is lava.

Once bread is done, remove from oven, drizzle on the glaze, then while still hot sprinkle with white sugar.

It’s tasty, and not too anise-y, which I don’t really like, but this amount isn’t too much. I think Mexicans do anise WAYYYY better than the French do, frankly, so really don’t worry about it- you’ll like it. This bread is great heated up the next day, spread with butter and eaten with coffee. And remember- the dead wait for no one, so like… hurry it up.