Turning Found Fruit into Treasured Quince Jelly (Super Simple Recipe!)

Quince Jelly

Quince jelly is surprisingly easy to make and it’s delicious spread on toast.

I’ve always gotten a kick out of “finding” food and turning it into something delicious like quince jelly. At my first sleep-away camp at age 7, my buddies and I plucked huckleberries from vines alongside a hiking trail. We proundly presented the hippy camp cooks (this was a self-sufficient organic farm camp in Northern California in the 1970s) with buckets of the tiny tart-sweet berries and they turned them into luscious pies and moist cakes topped with a crunchy sugar glaze. We were SO proud when they served them to the entire camp at dinner that night.

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Herb Mayonnaise and More at SF Cooking School

Tomato Sandwich with Herb Mayonnaise

Homemade herb mayonnaise, toasted sourdough bread, and sliced heirloom tomatoes make the perfect lunch

People assume that since I’m a freelance food writer, I must eat amazing meals—like the heirloom tomato sandwich with homemade herb mayonnaise pictured above—all the time. The truth is a bit more dismal. Lunch usually involves snacking on random leftovers (if I’m lucky) while hunched over my computer at my dining room table (which doubles as my office). Plus, I don’t even have any coworkers to discuss the latest Duggar scandal with. So when someone invites me to lunch at a cooking school, I say yes. Twice this summer I’ve been to events that involved eating delicious food (including the aforementioned herb mayonnaise, see recipe below) and engaging in fascinating conversation (about food mostly, not the Duggars) at the San Francisco Cooking School.

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Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Pecorino Romano

pecorino romano carbonara

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Pecorino Romano cheese. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Secrest Photography; recipe courtesy of Caroline Fey of The City Kitchen)

If you’re ever invited to a seven-course Pecorino Romano-themed dinner party — especially at San Francisco’s Cookhouse, a glamorous culinary event venue located  upstairs from Vesuvio bar with a stunning view of the heart of North Beach — say YES! Robin and I were in this very situation a few months back, so my advice can be trusted.

First off, we learned a ton about Pecorino Romano. For example: this hard, salty sheep’s milk cheese was born over 2,000 years ago in the Roman region of Lazio. Today, 90% of all Pecorino Romano is produced in Sardinia, with indispensable assistance from an ancient (and fluffy!) creature called the Sardinian sheep. Since salt is a natural preservative, Pecorino was a perfect traveling food for Roman soldiers — and, many years later, for Italian immigrants sailing to the United States. Also a plus for warriors and travelers: sheep’s milk contains twice the amount of protein as cow’s milk, calcium in an easily digestible form, and vitamins B1, B2, PP, A and E. All good stuff to know, right?

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Pickled Onions with Lime Juice

lime juice pickled onions

Lime juice pickled onions perk up taco truck tacos and a whole lot more

This quick lime juice pickled onion recipe is so simple, so flavorful, and so beautiful (that bright pink color!) that I just can’t get enough. The lime juice makes these pickled onions a perfect match for Mexican food, so I made up a batch to top some goat tacos a couple of weeks ago, but since then I’ve put them on scrambled eggs; a pita sandwich stuffed with broiled salmon; a salad with Romaine lettuce, feta cheese ,and tomatoes; bagels and lox; and about a million other things.

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Char Siu Bao (Steamed BBQ Pork Buns)—Weeknight Easy

char siu bao

Char Siu Bao (steamed BBQ pork buns) are surprisingly easy to make

I don’t know what magic was at work, but apparently, I once had all the time in the world. I know this because I have vivid memories of spending countless hours in the kitchen happily infusing oils, kneading dough, hand-making fussy little morsels without a care. Case in point: I went through a phase of making dim sum—every sort of Chinese dumpling from deep-fried wontons to char siu bao (steamed bbq pork buns)—from scratch on a regular basis, like I was someone’s Chinese grandma.

In need of some kitchen inspiration recently, I pulled out some of my old dim sum recipes, but was instantly put off by how time-consuming they were. Clearly, times have changed. Alas, the bee had entered my bonnet and, like it or not, I was making Char Siu Bao for my family, but I had to find a quicker way.

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Thai Chicken Satay

Thai Chicken Satay

Quick and Easy Thai Chicken Satay

After spending a few weeks in the polar vortex, my family and I returned to the Bay Area in mid-January to discover that summer has come early this year. Really early. Dire drought emergency and looming water rationing aside, I did what any self-respecting Californian would do: I quickly hid my East Coast winter parka and fleece leggings in the basement, donned short sleeves and sunglasses, and pulled out the barbecue. To be honest, I felt a little giddy as I plucked a handful of ripe, red cherry tomatoes off a bush and popped one between my teeth, the sweet taste of summer filling my mouth. It was high time for Thai chicken satay.

I’ve spent years trying to recreate the flavors I fell in love with on the streets of Bangkok. With the help of my Thai ex-patriot friend, who also happens to be an excellent cook, I have finally come close with this easy recipe for the classic Thai street food specialty, chicken satay. The marinade for these simple grilled chicken skewers includes signature Thai ingredients like lemongrass, turmeric (ideally fresh, but dried is fine, too), fresh galangal (you can substitute fresh ginger), chilies, and fish sauce. Palm sugar assures authentic Southeast Asian flavor, but dark brown cane sugar is a fine substitute. The end result is pure heaven on a stick.

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Green Tomato Fritters

Fried Green Tomato Fritters

Fried Green Tomato Fritters are a lot easier to make than traditional fried tomatoes. No annoying dredging or coating!

For many of you across the northern hemisphere — those who are currently wrapping yourselves in full arctic expedition gear just to get to work — this will not be a timely post. Here in dull-weather California, however, I still have a good ten pounds left of unripe green tomatoes in my fridge, thanks to my weirdly extended harvest of Sungolds and Early Cascades.

The other day I was frying up some of these green tomatoes traditional-style, first slicing them, then dredging and coating each individual slice in egg and corn meal. DELICIOUS, but the process is a hassle — especially with smaller tomato varieties, which are harder to slice, coat, and handle. But I stuck with it, and at the end, as is my habit, I dumped some corn meal and salt into the remaining bit of egg to make a single guilty pleasure cornball. Then I thought: why not just mix some diced green tomato in there too, and make a patty? It worked beautifully! Not only was it an easier technique than the traditional slice-dredge-coat, but also a much more efficient way to make use of all those baby green cherries.

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Incredibly Easy Tomato Soup Recipe

tomato soup recipe

Our Lazy Gourmet roasted tomato soup recipe is incredibly easy to make. And delicious.

There are only so many homegrown tomatoes that an urban backyard farmer can consume. (Yes, even here in San Francisco! Sun Golds by the Bay!) Tomatoes don’t last long on the counter (a ruthless gang of fruit flies holds unopposed authority in my kitchen), and they lose flavor when stored in the fridge. Sure, we can share them with our friends and family — but there’s a good chance those friends and family members are simultaneously sharing their tomatoes with us. Consequently, those of us who are not Duggars are always looking for creative ways to use and preserve our summer bounty. At my house, the leftovers that don’t make it into my maw via sandwich, salad, or fist, end up in soups that I freeze and save for winter. Bring on the flu season!

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Baked Chicken with Lemon Marmalade Glaze

Baked Chicken with Lemon Marmalade Glaze

Baked Chicken with Lemon Marmalade Glaze

Thanks to my many generous, green-thumbed, food-loving friends, my kitchen cupboards are crammed year-round with homemade jams: persimmon butter, blackberry and poppy flower preserves, grapefruit marmalade, quince jam, green tomato and chili chutney (made by the coauthor), and many more. In fact, I own more gourmet artisan jams than I could ever possibly hope to consume via toast or crumpets alone. I’m not complaining! I’m just saying that I now face the challenge of trying to figure out creative ways to use those jams that don’t involve eating PBJs every day for the next three years.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garbanzo Beans and Almonds

roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garbanzo Beans and Almonds

If you’re lucky enough not to have the genetic mutation that makes people hate Brussels sprouts, then there is a very good chance you’ll love these roasted Brussels sprouts with garbanzo beans and toasted almonds. Roasting at a high temperature brings out the sweetness and flavor in the sprouts, and gives the garbanzos an unusual crispy crunch. (And adding the protein-rich legumes to this vegetable dish makes it a great option for a vegetarian dinner.)

This dish begs for variation and experimentation. In the past I’ve substituted cauliflower or broccoli for the Brussels sprouts, swapped pistachios for the almonds, tossed sliced garlic cloves into the mix before roasting, drizzled it with lemon juice, and sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese. In the future I might try tossing in crumbled feta at the end, or dried cranberries, or fresh herbs… What else could you do? I would love to hear your ideas!

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