Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brandied Cocktail Cherries

This rainy day is perfect timing – I have been meaning to share details on the making of things I've brought to our recent swaps, and this is just the break I needed.

For the June swap I focused on the seasonal bounty of stone fruit, and first up was cherries. Like most of you I imagine, I keep folders – both online and hard copy, depending on where I find them – of recipes I want to try out, and this Cocktail Cherries recipe had caught my eye on the KCRW Good Food blog a few months back. I was just waiting for the cherries to appear...and then they were here, in huge ripe tempting piles of red fruit, everywhere!

I scored 4 lbs. of gorgeous, plump pesticide-free cherries at the Civic Center Farmers Market for $9 and trundled home happily. The thing I really liked about this recipe is that aside from the fruit I had everything required already in my pantry: sugar, fresh lemon juice, cinnamon stick, fresh vanilla bean, cardamon pods, star anise, brandy and water. I added a couple extra cardamom pods, and substituted simple syrup for the agave nectar since sometimes agave can taste a little off to me, but otherwise stuck to the above recipe.

Cocktail cherries on simmer

One thing I did notice is that some of the cherries got a bit scalded. Whether this was from me simmering them too long (I did cook them a bit longer than called for to make sure the flavors really absorbed), or letting the heat get a little high, or the fact I used a larger pot which left them closer to the heat in a thinner layer across the bottom, I'm not sure...but aside from a couple having wrinkly skin, there were no real negative effects so I didn't worry about it.

Hot cherries

The other nice thing about this recipe is that you let the cherries cool to room temperature before putting them in jars, so there's no handling of hot fruit and liquid which definitely makes it easier. The recipe yielded six 8-oz. jars (though this will vary depending on the size of your cherries), with some left over for me to use for samples at the swap, but I did need to mix up some extra liquid to cover all the cherries. To do this I took some remaining simple syrup, some additional brandy and a little water – mixed it up in the saucepan used to cook the fruit to get any remaining cherry goodness out, and spread it between the jars to top them up.

Topping off the jars

The cherries were left whole, with the stem and pit still on, so while they do look great in a cocktail glass, you need to either remember to remove the pits before serving, or advise yourself/your pals before consuming. They are also excellent atop vanilla ice cream, yogurt or any dessert you want to add a little kick to, and the liquid can be added to your Manhattan or other drinks to taste too.

In my opinion these turned out so well I actually wish I had kept a jar for myself, but luckily they were very easy to make, so I'll just have to get another batch in jars before all the cherries are gone. Come to think of it, that's another thing that'd be perfect for this rainy day!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hot Swap!

Our second swap took place on Father's Day with unseasonally warm (for San Francisco) weather in a spectacular outdoor setting, thanks to fellow swappers and gracious hosts: Olga, Jim and Mary.

Swap with a view

SF Swappers gals Stephanie and I with Kate Payne
We also had our special guest Kate Payne, original co-founder of BK Swappersblogger and author of Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking there. She talked about her book a little, but even more enthusiastically about how the book tour has enabled her to attend all kinds of house parties and other food swap events around the country and how lucky she feels to meet so many people making and sharing their food, strengthening our food communities and growing the swap movement. She now calls Austin, TX home, where she's one of the forces behind ATXswappers.

I of course bought a copy of her book, got it signed, and cracked the spine as soon as I was home with my feet up. Its subtitle provides an accurate preview: Decorating, Dining, and the Gratifying Pleasures of Self-Sufficiency  on a Budget, but does not do full justice to the contents. It is all at once practical, insightful, personal, accessible, aesthetically pleasing and filled with tons of fun tips anyone can apply to their home. I'm still in the first chapter, but have already been tackling our overflowing pantry based on some of what I've read. Two big thumbs up and a "get thyself a copy" endorsement from this homemaker.

Whether because of the warm weather or the holiday we had a smaller group than expected, but it did make for a casual and intimate event, and it meant almost everyone could swap with each other which was very rewarding – and much less frenzied.

Let's dig in to the food... Once again the potluck tables were chock-full of tempting eats  from prosciutto wrapped mozzarella to scones to seasonal fruit to frittata  and of course mimosas were on the menu.

For the swap, there was a great balance of savory and sweet, fresh and for the pantry.

The list included Candy Cap Mushroom Cookies, Palestinian Hummus, Sorrel Pesto, Trifle, Cha-cha-cha Cherry Chocolate and Chipotle Chili Crumble, Candied Kumquats, Marinated Mushrooms, Smoked Salmon Mousse and Crostini, Dukkah, Garden Fresh Herbs & Radicchio, Raw Honey from Berkeley, Roasted Corn & Edamame Salad, Fruit Leather, Brandied Cocktail Cherries and Lemon Balm Cordial. Yeah!

Artful hummus sampler plate

Candy Cap Mushroom Cookies (foraged from an undisclosed CA location)

Organic Candied Kumquats

Seasonal Fruit Leather Trios

Raw Honey from the Algarden Urban Farm in Berkeley

Want more? You got it! There are photos of all the swap items in a Flickr set here.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying my take-home haul daily and love how the different dishes both bring a whole new repetoire to my kitchen, and inspire me to eat differently and keep cookin'.

June Swap Goodies at home

Our next swap will be in August - we'll announce the date soon so you can mark your calendars and plan ahead.

Monday, June 13, 2011

SF Swappers featured on Eat the Love blog

A fantastic write-up and excellent photos of our first swap is now up on Irvin Lin's delicious Eat the Love blog. There's also a recipe for his amazing Blueberry and White Chocolate Jumbo Cookie, so don't miss out!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Join us and special guest Kate Payne at our next swap!

In case you haven't heard, the second SF Swappers event will take place on Sunday, June 19th from 1-3 pm. We know it’s Father’s Day, but our friend, Kate Payne, blogger and author of Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, will be in town from Austin, TX on her book tour, and is making our swap a special stop. Some of her fabulous books will also be available for purchase.

This swap will be starring Mother Nature and a view. Yup, that's right it's taking place outdoors. Pray for better weather than we've had so far this June...

Get full details and register here.