Is my taster off?

Last weekend was  my first Food Swap.  I brought cardamom walnut cookies (a recipe from Culinary School), mango chutney, vanilla-nectarine preserves and Moroccan kumquat marmalade.  Shockingly, my Zucchini Relish was by far the big star of the show .  I “sold out” and had swappers still wanting to swap for more.  Why do I say “shockingly”? Because when I tested it,  my impression was “meh”.  I tried some on a slider, and it tasted good, but by itself, I was not impressed – to me, it tastes like relish mixed with mustard – nothing special.  I think it needs less turmeric and more tartness – and a bit more serrano pepper.  In contract, one of the swappers told me it was the best thing at the entire swap.  

Yesterday,   baked streusel bars for the office.  I sampled one last night.  To me, it tasted okay.  In fact, I wrote a note next to the recipe that read “Good, not great.” They were too sweet and a bit boring.  If I make them again, I’d add orange or lemon rind and ground cloves. Well, this morning, my co-workers are going crazy for them – they keep telling me how delicious they are.  I tried another one (maybe they improved overnight?) and it tasted a bit better, but still not rave-worthy. Too sweet!

Could my taster be off?Streusel

Double Cherry Streusel Bars*

1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces)
1 cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon kirsch (I used brandy since I didn’t have kirsch)

Dough and streusel
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 cup (packed) sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup sliced almonds (about 3 ounces)

For filling:
Combine cherries, preserves, and kirsch in processor; blend to chunky puree.

For dough and streusel:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 13x9x2-inch baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and extracts. Blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture comes together in small clumps. Transfer 1 cup (packed) mixture to medium bowl and reserve for streusel. Blend remaining mixture in processor until large moist clumps form. Gather dough together in large ball.

Press dough over bottom of prepared baking pan; pierce all over with fork. Bake dough until golden, about 22 minutes; cool crust 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Add coconut flakes and almonds to reserved 1 cup dough. Mix dough with fork, breaking streusel topping into small clumps.

Spread cherry filling over baked crust. Sprinkle streusel topping over. Bake cookie until cherry filling is bubbling and streusel topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool cookie in pan on rack. Using foil overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan. Peel off foil and discard. Cut cookie lengthwise into thirds, then cut crosswise into eighths, forming total of 24 bars.

*Adapted from Bon Appétit


Food Swap – 2 Down

RelishMy second offering for the swap – zucchini relish.  the zucchini is from the CSA and the recipe is from Sunset Magazine.  This is a new recipe for me.  Taste testing from the pan,  I added a finely chopped Serrano chile, extra vinegar and extra salt.  My fingers are crossed that the final product is edible: testing recipes – in my kitchen, in my life and on complete strangers.

Food Swap – First item up for auction…

Nectarine Preserves 2Nectarine (from my garden) Vanilla Bean preserves.  I swear, if there is a heaven, it smells like Nectarine Vanilla Bean preserves cooking on the stove. My original recipe can be found here.

Food Swap

source:  Utne Reader

source: Utne Reader

Next month, I’m participating in my first food swap.  What the heck is that, you ask?  I didn’t know either – after a little research, I discovered it’s the new “cottage food” thing to do.  Food swapping provides urban gardeners and home canners with a platform for sharing their wares.  Local “food crafters” share homemade, homegrown, or foraged foods with each other through one of these swaps. Trades of goods take place between attendees – my canned peaches for your homemade lemoncello.

Why do it?  It’s a challenge for me.  I like the idea of getting my food crafts out in the public – and it’s a nice way to meet people in the local foodie community (for an unsocial butterfly).  I asked my sister if she wanted to participate – and I received the typical sisterly response:

“What if I don’t like anything that others brought?  What if my food it better?  What if I just want to swap with you?  Why would I want to do it?  What if I don’t want to trade?  I remember when mom made baked goods for the bake sales that hers were always better than the other moms’ treats…

Ugh…never mind.

I’m not sure what I’m going to bring yet.  I just checked the canned jellies and jam pantry from my recent jamming sessions and there’s not much available – two nectarine-vanilla, three strawberry-black pepper and four Moroccan kumquat.  I’m considering baking a few batches of my walnut orange cookies that I created during culinary school. I’ve also thought about canning my preserved lemons (picked from my garden, of course) and salted caramel sauce.  I made a chutney for lunch after my mom’s service that I’ve always wanted to recreate.  I also want to play around with chocolates and fresh pasta (I just got a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid – and chocolate molds when I was in Italy).

It’s a little nerve wracking (what if no one likes my stuff) and a little exciting at the same time.