Melon Seed Horchata

Horchata de Melon RecipeThe Pecking Order
I knew when I planted my garden this year I was probably just starting the next campaign in the war for supremacy over my chicken. But, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Alas, my hopes were dashed. Let me explain…

Anytime we plant in the garden—be it fruits, vegetables, or flowers—we have to figure out how best to keep our remaining chicken from eating everything. Turtle, the chicken named for the ruff of feathers around her neck, is the last remaining member of our flock. She has survived numerous racoon and neighborhood dog attacks. She methodically took out a few of her own personal rivals during her meteoric rise to the top of the pecking order…to the point that she is now the lone survivor. With people though, she is skittish but sweet and will squat down in front of you to get some petting attention. Turtle is actually fun to have around, until she tries to eat my tomatoes. Things get real when she goes after my tomatoes.

The last time we had a big garden, Turtle took out everything. Not just the veggies on the vine, but the vines themselves. So this year, we planted everything in an area she can’t get to. And, so far so good.

However, over the weekend I planted my melon patch. The melon patch is the only area that is in the chicken hazard zone and I had not yet figured out how I was going to chicken-proof it. Sure enough, not quite an hour after planting my cantaloupes and watermelons, there she is taking a dirt bath in the turned-over soil after having pecked at the leaves of the plants themselves. I was livid. Mostly at myself for believing I could actually grow a garden without her interference this year. Thankfully, we had some extra chicken wire hanging around and managed to make a temporary solution to keep her away.

The good news is that I think the plants will survive. I am looking forward to sweet melons this summer—especially for the recipe below. It’s the perfect way to use the seeds that would normally be thrown away. And, since it is Cinco de Mayo and the melons in the market are actually getting better, it is a great option for tonight’s fiesta. The recipe is from the book The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It’s a must have for your Mexican cooking library…

Melon Seed Horchata Recipe
Adapted from The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy
Yields one serving

This is a great way to use the seeds of a cantaloupe—a part you would normally be discarding. And, it makes a tasty and refreshing drink.

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NY Style Bagels

Amy's New York Style BagelsWho Needs Noah?
NY Style Bagels have been a popular topic lately. The rise of the Boichick Bagels from Berkeley (as well as the article in the New York Times) have led to bagel lovers searching far and wide to get a taste of what the Times called the best bagels in the country. That’s what they said. I’m not trying to start a fight. I know how adamant people can be about their bagels. I do, however, propose another way to enjoy a great bagel.

Many of us in the last year have turned to bread making—as anyone looking for flour and yeast last April can attest. Thousands of people were introduced to the world of sourdough. I myself got back into bread making but I went a different direction. A few months ago, I had this idea that I wanted something different for breakfast that weekend, but I was tired of the usual sweeter stuff. My daughter had been making some soft pretzels that she saw online. And, watching her prompted me to want to learn about making bagels. (The concept is somewhat similar)

The idea may sound daunting but it’s really not. It does require an overnight rise in your fridge. So, planning ahead is key. Admittedly, the process would have been harder had I not seen a video on YouTube from NY Times contributor Clair Saffitz. As a visual learner, watching this video made the whole process easier. If you are interested in trying to make bagels, I highly recommend you watch this 10-minute video first.

When making bagels, be prepared for a workout. You will be kneading this dough for at least 20 minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to miss arm day…

My first batch of bagels was kind of wonky. I followed Claire’s recipe exactly and while they tasted good, even though I left them in the oven a couple minutes too long, I struggled with shaping them. Ultimately, I gave up on the rope/snake version and tried shaping by making a hole in the middle of the dough ball and stretching it out. (She mentions that method briefly in the video) The result was a puffy, perfectly chewy bagel that looks more like the bagel shape I am used to seeing. (Not sure if that makes it any less authentic?…) This has remained my go-to method of making bagels ever since.

I have yet to make my bagels with toppings on them like everything seasoning or sesame seeds. Personally, I prefer a plain bagel so that I can go savory or sweet depending on my mood. Also, you may or may not get a full dozen out of the dough. I weigh all of my ingredients on a scale and I have never had the same quantity result. Don’t worry if that happens to you. It is what it is…

I have also learned that doubling the batch is a requirement if you have teenage boys in your home. A single batch is great if you just want bagels for a Sunday morning. If you want to have some, say for the week, it’s best to make a double batch. Whatever you don’t eat that day can be sliced and put in the freezer. All you do is grab one and throw it in the toaster for a perfect weekday breakfast.

Another word of advice? Line your cookie sheets with parchment and/or spray them lightly! The water and malt syrup bath can make them stick to the sheet, which is a bummer.

NY Style Bagels Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking
Yields 12 bagels (most of the time)
Read more…

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and TarragonThe Vegetable Diaries
Spring break is here—which means it’s time to plant a veggie garden. I’m very excited. I haven’t had a true garden for many years. There have been too many other activities getting in the way of being able to take care of the plants. So, I am beyond motivated.

A few weeks ago I started my seeds. And, we had way too many cubic yards of good planting soil delivered that we used to fill our planter boxes. (I totally over-ordered.)

The waiting has been the hardest part. As a rule, you’re not supposed to plant until the temps stay above 50 degrees—and my patience has been running thin. I tend to jump the gun, usually planting a week or two too early. I showed better restraint this year. I did get the peas in the ground early though, mainly because they like the cold. But, I also chose a variety that is frost-resistant…just in case.

The recent weather has been great. But, the mornings have been a bit chilly. I am crossing my fingers that we are done with the frost. As of this post, all of my tomatoes are in the ground as well as the beans and peppers, both the bells and the spicier versions. I have been growing strawberries in my greenhouse which have recently exploded with so many berries. So, that’s some tastiness to look forward to. My peach tree is also showing significant signs of life.

I am experimenting with grow bags this year and I have to report that so far things are going well. I planted potatoes in them which are super easy to grow. And, from the looks of them, potatoes love grow bags. Grow bags are a great, inexpensive option for those who don’t have the space to have big planters. A friend of mine has had success growing tomatoes in grow bags. So, apartment dwellers take heart, you have options beyond a wine barrel or bulky planters.

With everything in the ground all that is left is the waiting. The peas will probably be the first to produce anything in great numbers. There’s nothing better than fresh peas right out of their pod. Although fresh picked corn on the cob might be a close second…and then there are the tomatoes. It’s great to have options!

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon Recipe
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This is the ultimate salad for pea-lovers. It showcases three kinds of peas plus pea shoots—which are delicious if you have never tried them! Read more…

Amy’s Almost Battenburg Cake

Amy’s Almost Battenburg CakeBattenburg Bunny
When I think of Easter baking two things come to mind: Hot Cross Buns and Carrot Cake. They are two undisputed staples of the Easter celebration. But, as much as I enjoy a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes you just want to do something different. Be a rebel. Take a walk on the wild side. (Okay, wild might be a bit strong.)

My issue is while I know I want to something different, I’m just not sure what that might be. My strawberries are starting to bear fruit—but not nearly in the quantities I need for a dessert for a crowd. There are enough for a nice little snack while watering the garden, though.

Something lemony is always a good idea. The bright yellow color and bright lemony flavor are perfect for a Spring /Easter brunch or dinner. But, finding something new was challenging until I remembered a cake from one of my favorite TV show binges from this past year.

My mother-in-law had been telling us to watch the Durrells in Corfu on PBS for the past couple of years…well before lockdown. So, my husband and I decided to take the plunge out of a desperate need for entertainment. And, we were very glad we did. It’s hilarious, and made even more so because it was way too similar to how my husband was brought up.

Battenburg cake has a reoccurring part in the show. So, of course I was intrigued. I have never made one nor have I ever tasted one. But, there’s no time like the present…right? I found a recipe on Food 52 and have adapted it with lemon rather than marzipan and a buttercream frosting. So, while it may not actually be a Battenburg cake, it will still look like one!   Read more…