Sometimes even the most dedicated cook – which is not me – feels like doing something out of the kitchen. That’s especially true when the weather has warmed up enough that you can sit outside but not so hot that you can’t. That’s right now around here. What makes it even better is that my dear spouse’s garden is bursting with flowers. My wife is a fan of irises. They are at their full blooming season and there are plenty of those in an amazing breadth of color. Susan also likes clematis and wild flowers. The columbines, primroses, wood roses, paintbrush, and penstemons have yet to hit their peak, so we can enjoy them all for another while. I hope you enjoy these images of the garden.
Tag Archives: iris
Spring has finally come. Or is it summer already? The last big snow storm on the Sangre de Cristos melted a few days ago, and now there is only a tiny sliver of white on the highest peak. Today, the temperature is in the 80s, and tomorrow it is supposed to be over 90.
The western bluebirds and Say’s phoebes have built their nests while the purple house finches are looking for their space. Piñon jays have appeared in great flocks, the first time that has happened in years, perhaps because of the years-long drought and the early spring rains we have had. The spotted towhees are back with their distinctive cheerful sound, and the ravens are brooding in a huge nest built of sticks (too big to be called twigs) in a juniper on the bank of the arroyo. Black-chinned hummingbirds have arrived at the feeders, but it is too early for the more aggressive broad-tails. It has been a joy to watch the migrants traveling through our yard on their trip up north. Lizards are sunning themselves on the patio wall.
Apricots and peaches put on an early show and then promptly froze, so again there won’t be fruit from the trees in our yard. Lilacs and daffodils have finished their performance, and now the irises and columbines are at their peak with the peonies bowing down as their huge flowers overwhelm the slender stems. The native plants have also begun to color the landscape: evening primroses (both yellow and white varieties), yuccas and their accompanying hawk moths, paintbrush, buckwheat, and Artemisia. The color should start to come in waves now until the winter frost with chollas, fern bushes, desert willows, sacred daturas, desert four-o’clocks, sunflowers, cow pen daisies, and asters joining in at just the appropriate time.
With all of this gong on, it has become harder to cook and to make images in the kitchen, so I decided to take a break and wander around my wife’s beautiful garden. I hope you will forgive this lapse, and I also hope that you enjoy this little break from cooking.
Enjoy your summer ahead.
It’s May! And I think that Spring may be here. Lots of flowers are in bloom, but we have experienced freezing weather for the last week. As well, it is a month of birthdays: three of our circle of friends are having birthdays within a week of one another, so we are planning a mass celebration. I am making the dessert. My plan is to make takeoffs from Sarah’s Rich Table desserts – salted chocolate sablés and buttermilk panna cotta. Neither of these is an authentic recipe from Sarah (Do you think Dad could talk her out of trade secrets?) but they should be close. I also plan to gild the lily – it is Spring, remember? – with Mexican cajeta to pour over the panna cotta.
The recipe for cajeta comes from the superb cook book, Authentic Mexican, by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless (William Morrow and Co., New York, 1987, p 293). Even though the recipe calls for regular white sugar, in the past I have used piloncillo, the small cones of unrefined sugar that you can find in Mexican and Central American markets. This time, though, I decided to go with turbinado. The other decision was whether to use goat’s milk or cow’s milk. The authentic version calls for goat’s milk, and it is easy to buy from the stalls selling goat cheese at the farmers market or in cartons at health food groceries, so I went with that.
The only tricky things about the recipe are: (1) don’t let the mixture boil over when you add the baking soda, (2) stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom, and (3) watch for the change in the size of the bubbles as it boils, because that is the sign to let you know it’s almost done.
Cajeta is akin to caramel or butterscotch sauces, and it can be used in exactly the same way. It is delicious over ice cream, fruit, cake, etc. I guess you could just eat it straight out of the bowl, and some folks probably do.
- 1 quart goat’s milk
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1½ inch stick of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the goat’s milk, sugar, and corn syrup, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the cinnamon
- Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. It will foam up, so stir it vigorously to prevent boiling over.
- Return to the heat and adjust the temperature so that it simmers gently with a low boil. Stir frequently from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.
- Check frequently and stir. After about 30 – 45 minutes, the mixture will have reduced to about half or less, and the bubbles on the surface will change in size and become more glistening.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to reduce still further, but stirring very frequently to prevent burning.
- When it has thickened sufficiently – it should coat the spoon but still be fluid – remove from the heat. Cool for a few minutes, and then stir in the rum.
- Allow to cool completely and then transfer to a serving dish or to a wide-mouthed jar. It can be refrigerated for later use, but reheat gently before serving.