You’ve had those days. You feel like a homebody, nesting, cocooning. They’re the treasures of fall, when it is too gray to go outside and nothing pressing to do inside. Yes, a couch and a good book may call, especially if there is a cold to nurse, but you’ve got to keep that twinge of Puritan work ethic guilt at bay.
Seed Saving: Collect a few of this season’s tomatoes, heirlooms from your garden or the farmers market. Before you get ready to make a sauce, squeeze the seeds from the prettiest tomato into an old jelly jar. Add a little water to the seeds, and set on your kitchen counter, uncovered. I put a sticky note labeling the type (San Marzano) on the jar lid and place it nearby.
A few days later, you may notice some mold growing on the seed sludge. This is a good sign. At this point, pour the seeds and water through a strainer, rinsing with water from the spigot. Tap excess water off the strainer, place a paper towel on the counter, flip the strainer upside down and dump the seeds onto the paper towel. On the bottom of the paper towel, write San Marzano. Put another paper towel on top and let the seeds air dry. At your leisure, pick off the dried seeds off the towel, place in an envelope, label and place in a jar in the refrigerator. If you have those desiccant packets that come in vitamin bottles or shoeboxes, place one in the jar and close the lid.
Crème Fraiche: Years ago, I was given a book about Kate Hill who has a sort of B&B on a canal boat in France, A Culinary Journey in Gascony: Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat. It is packed away in a box somewhere, much to my regret, because it is the type of book that is fun to revisit. I remember Kate made crème fraiche on the boat, and served it with fresh berries she’d find at each market where she moored. I ran across directions for crème fraiche once again in a review about a new book I’d love to read, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila.
You simply buy a pint of heavy cream, pour it into a clean jar, and then stir in your culture, which could be 3 tablespoons of either active culture yogurt, buttermilk or your last batch of crème fraiche. Your choice of bacterial culture sours the cream. Cover with cheesecloth. Sit it on a kitchen counter to ferment and thicken for 12-24 hours. When it is firm, put it in the refrigerator where it will keep for two weeks (but you will use it faster than that, I promise.) It is like making yogurt, only easier because heating isn’t necessary.
I can buy 8 oz. (a half pint) of fresh heavy cream at a local dairy for 70 cents—that, a little culture, and 24 hours, and I have homemade crème fraiche—and I don’t have to drive across town to buy ready-made crème fraiche, $5.99 for an 8-ounce tub.
To me, crème fraiche is less sour and more velvety than sour cream. Because the fat content is more than 30 percent, it doesn’t curdle with high heat when added to soup, nor does it separate when mixed with wine or vinegar for a dressing or sauce. (When substituting it for cream in your favorite soup, use half the amount called for.) You can add chopped herbs to dress up seafood or poultry, or use it in a burrito or taco. It is perfect to top a bowl of fresh berries and one night this week I may mix maple syrup with a dollop of crème fraiche and drizzle it on sautéed Asian pears.
This whole crème fraiche business came about several weeks ago. One of my MG friends, Katie, made Caramelized Garlic Tart for a presentation I gave on Growing Garlic. The tart and the aroma of roasted garlic wafting through the October air sure made the presentation a hit. (Katie found the recipe in Yotamv Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty.) The other night, we had a Potluck Postmortem for the Lemont Farmers Market. As the market’s Garlic Lady, I brought the tart.
Caramelized Garlic Tart
13 oz. puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
¾ T. sugar
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
1 tsp. chopped thyme
4.5 oz. soft, creamy goat cheese
4.5 oz. hard, mature goat cheese
6.5 T. heavy cream
6.5 T. crème fraiche
Salt & pepper
- Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed 11-inch tart pan.
- Roll out puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Line pan with pastry. Place a large circle of wax paper on the bottom and fill with baking beans/weights. Leave to rest in refrigerator for 20 minutes. (The puff pastry I bought came in a 17.3 oz. package. I rolled it all out and had enough for a large tart pan and a small pie plate (for home sampling).
- Blind bake tart for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove weights and paper, and bake 10-15 minutes more. Set aside.
- Put garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain well. Dry saucepan, return cloves to it and add olive oil. Fry on high heat—2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water. Bring to a boil—simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ tsp. salt. Continue simmering on medium heat for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark. caramel syrup. Set aside. (And take time to enjoy the fragrance of this heady combination.)
- Assemble the tart. Break both types of goat cheese into pieces and scatter in the tart shell. Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the tart. Whisk together eggs, cream, cream fraiche, ½ tsp. salt and some black pepper. Pour custard over the tart filling to fill gaps, making sure you can still see the garlic and cheese.
- Reduce oven to 325 degrees and bake 35-45 minutes until the filling has set and the top is golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool a little.
- Take out of pan and lay a few sprigs of thyme on top for garnish. Serve.
Peeling Garlic: Pure relaxation and an aroma to send a cold scampering. So, to end my lazy day, I peel all of the single garlic cloves left from planting, blanch and freeze them so they will keep for December. Then I will welcome Richard, Sabine, and Lais with lots of garlic hugs and kisses and tarts. Laurie Lynch
Written On Slate: “Garlick maketh a man wynke, drynke, and stynke.”—Thomas Nash, 16th century poet
“Three nickels will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.”—New York saying
“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”—Louis Diat
“There is no such thing as a little garlic.”—Arthur Baer