SummerFest


It has been well over a year since I started this blog and somehow I have managed to keep it completely … shall we say … mundane. I have managed to keep the subject focused on … umm … modern food. You who have been reading this (if this is the only venue by which you know me) have remained blissfully unaware of my … hobby.

Yes, a great deal of ellipses have gone into the crafting of that paragraph – for good reason. This is the equivalent of a foodie skeleton in the closet, or pantry if you will. While I love cooking for my family and finding new and interesting recipes to cook, my true source for passionate inspiration is a wee bit older.

Like 16th century or earlier older.

And those recipes require a great deal more creativity in cooking and interpreting. Which is what makes them so fun. But this weeks inaugural SummerFest subject has brought this dirty little secret out into the light. Because I have a recipe that I must share with you. And you must make it, if you like cucumbers.

Cucumber, Onion & Basil Salad –

An interpretation of a dish described in Salvatore Massonio’s Archidipno overo dell’insalata e dell’vso di essa, published in Venice in 1627. Translation courtesy of  Louise Smithson

In order that cucumbers more easily pass the stomach eat them with the peel rather than without.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and make of them pieces moderately thin and dress them with oil, vinegar and salt like other salads.  But the custom one has learned is to add several pieces of raw onion and the leaves or sprouts of green basil.  This is not without foundation in art, perhaps it counteracts the natural coldness of moisture of it and makes the juice less large and less slow.

The Hardware: a knife, but a mandolin is also useful, a bowl, a whisk.

The Software:
1 1/2 English Cucumber
1 of an Onion
6 T Olive Oil
2 T White Wine Vinegar
1 3/4 t Salt
16 Grinds Fresh Pepper (or to taste)
2 1/2 t Basil, finely chopped

Combine Olive Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper and Basil and whisk together, set aside. (This also works really well in a glass jar, just dump it all in –  put a lid on it – and shake). Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and then slice in 1/8 in slices. Cut onion in half and slice on Mandolin very thin. At least an hour before you want to eat the salad (and up to 2 hours before) combine the dressing and veggies in a bowl – allow to sit somewhere cold. You know, like a ‘fridge.

Cucumber, Onion & Basil Salad

Blah, Blah, Blah:

This makes a gracious plenty – enough for 12 people. I know that is crazy, but when I cook this style of food I am usually cooking for a minimum of 100 people who are served family style 8 – 12 per table.  This also works beautifully for pot-luck or buffet style service. It can sit for several hours and just get better and better. Save any leftover dressing in your shaking jar in the ‘fridge and you can use it as a base for vinaigrette.

You will notice that there is no mention of olive oil, vinegar, salt or pepper in the original recipe – and that is where the fun of these period recipes come in. You have to read many, many recipes to get a feel for what would have been done. You see, these recipes were not written for the lay person, they were written with the assumption that you are a cook and you know what you are doing already.

With this recipe I had the foundation of having read many vegetable/salad recipes from Bartolomeo Scappi’s 16th century manuscript entitled Opera dell’arte del cucinare.  Based on his description in various recipes I was able to determine that it would have most likely been served in a dressing and how to put that dressing together.

So, do you still love me or do you think I am crazy now?

summerfest-badge

What I should be posting right now is an entry for thursday night smackdown’s Hobo Tuesday. But I am a slacker, and a chicken. Specifically the theme for this month is super spicy food, and my idea of pretty darn spicy is the regular stuff at Taco Bell. When they ask me if I want some of the Medium sauce I am all like Whoaaaa there Nelly, let’s not get too crazy.

So I found another event to participate in – it is the Summer Fest! Apparently the whole shindig started last month with Herbs, but I always tend to be a little slow on the uptake. The theme of this month is tree fruits – and well, I live in Georgia and I really do not have any choice in the fruit I will be using. I mean really, could there be any other option?

So for this soiree I am getting back to one of the core values of this blog (since I have such a long and illustrious history, snort) and that is using one of my most precious commodities – time – to compensate for one of my more unsavory character traits – cheapness.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

One of the best cheap tips I can give you is to cut out the middle-man. If you can, buy your produce straight from the Farmer/Grower. Luckily I live in a State that believes in that very principle and sponsors the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market, a place where you can go year ’round and purchase produce directly from the Farmers that pulled it out of the ground, or off of the tree, or plant, or … you get the picture. There is even a meat market there that has three butchers there every week day – prices & sizes like a warehouse club without any taxes.

My mother and I toodled down there a couple of weeks ago and picked up a 1/2 bushel of peaches. Glorious peaches that smelled like … peaches, not those rock hard impostors you find at the grocery. Those, the best thing you can do with them is hot-glue on some googley eyes and try to recreate the ’70 pet rock craze only fuzzier. And the best thing, for our 22 lbs of peaches we paid $11. That’s right, .50 per lb. Does little cheap-ass happy dance.

And Here is Where you start Robbing Peter

We have beautifully high quality peaches at rock bottom prices, but we also have 22 lbs of highly perishable fruit that has to have something done with it NOW! So we pay for it with time. An entire day of canning with my Mother to be precise. But ooooh, the rewards.

Angelic & Delicious

Angelic & Delicious

The Yield:

6 Quarts of Peach Pie Filling
6 1/2 Half-pints of Peach Preserves
6 1/2 Half-pints of Ginger Peach Preserves
8 Quarts of Frozen Sliced Peaches

All total 20 quarts + 1 pint of peachy perfection to last us for the coming year. Trying to calculate how much money we saved would be difficult. Figure that each 1/2 pint of “gourmet” peach preserves that you buy at the grocery would run you at least $3 x 13 half-pints and you get $39. Already $28 more than we spent on the fruit. Of course you have to factor in the cost of the canning supplies – but those are re-usable and I really do not want to get into amortizing the crap. A quart sized bag of frozen peaches is going to run you at least $2.50 x 8 =  $20. The peach pie filling, and let me tell you this isn’t anything like the stuff that comes out of the can, you would pay at least $5 a jar for this x 6 = $30.

So, for our $11 basket of peaches and lets say and additional $15 in supplies (including sugar, spices etc…) we yielded $89 worth of the good stuff. $89 – $26 = $63, obviously not enough to compensate two such talented ladies for an entire day’s work (or at least one talented lady and one who can almost stir without drooling into the pot) but that is where the love comes in to play.

I think we might need to go buy more peaches before the season is over.

p.s. I haven’t included any recipes because they all came from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I usually avoid posting recipes if I haven’t made some changes to them because that would run afoul of copyright issues. And anyone reading about home preserving will know full well that if you change anything then OH MY GOD YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AND YOU WILL KILL YOUR FRIENDS WITH YOUR CANNED GOODS!!!!!!!!
I may exaggerate slightly.