Sensing a theme

This weekend, Saturday was non-stop busy. We got up, gave the house a thorough cleaning, and then spent several hours huddled around the dining room table with half a dozen friends playing a good old fashioned AD&D dungeon crawl. The game had to stop at exactly 5pm and no later, because the minute the last guest was out the door, Richard and I had to dash downstairs, change, and then head off to Dixon for a friend’s wedding. It was a lovely, low-key wedding – the church was packed to the rafters with people, and they couldn’t have asked for lovelier weather for an evening garden reception in the Sacramento Valley in August.

Today, however, there was nothing whatsoever on the calendar. And I must admit that I have been eagerly looking forward to this, if only because an entire free day meant that I would be able to spend the majority of it in the kitchen (Have I mentioned lately how very much I love my kitchen?). This is because lately I am finding that if I have some free time approaching on my calendar, I start immediately start pondering what I am going to cook, or bake, or can. Half a Saturday available? Plenty of time to whip up a batch of our (current) favorite sandwich bread (yes I know, we’re not kids, but hey, it’s really good bread!). Nothing planned on a weeknight, and the CSA box came with yet another pile of zucchini? How about a rustic lasagna tart (I’ve made it twice now, once with yellow squash and once with zucchini, and it is awesome, although I have to admit I am not a fan of ricotta, so I use cottage cheese instead). Faced with a pile of strangely shaped little little summer squash? Whip out the cheese grater and turn them into these. Manage to get my act together the night before? How about getting these incredible pancakes started, so the dough’s ready for the next morning.

This is not to say, mind you, that we do not still keep our favorite local pizzeria on speed dial, or that some days we end up eating bagels and cream cheese for dinner because neither of us is feeling inspired by a single thing in the kitchen cupboards. But I am having more and more fun in the kitchen, the more time I spend in it, and every recipe I try gives me just a touch more confidence in what I’m doing.

That being said, this weekend was all about pickles. I’m not a pickle fan, myself, but Richard is, and if I’m going to be canning, at some point, pickles have to come into play. We wandered around the farmers market and found one booth with piles and piles of perfectly sized thin-skinned, seedless cucumbers – just the thing for pickles. Loaded down with cucumbers, grapes, white peaches, wild blackberries, and a huge bag of English peas, we headed back home and while Richard ran off to the store to pick up various pickling spices, I washed and quartered all the cucumbers and set them to soak in boiling water and tumeric, and then when he returned with dill seed and dill weed, I crammed five pounds of cucumber spears into six pint jars and processed them in a hot water bath, and every single one of them sealed (huzzah!) Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, tumeric will stain (your fingers, the towels, and oh yeah, the granite countertop. oops).

I also put together a half batch of these Sweet Pickled Cherry Tomatoes because we are still swimming in cherry tomatoes. I have to admit I wasn’t impressed – in fact, I thought they were kind of disgusting. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but somehow tomato and candied ginger flavors together just do not translate into “edible” in my mouth. But hey, they used up two whole pounds of the little suckers (I am doing my best to ignore the fact that there’s about twice that many still lurking in the fridge, and who knows how many more still on the vine – sob), and Richard, at least, thinks they were really tasty, so the effort wasn’t totally wasted. Hmm…think I can convince him that since the pickles and the disgusting cherry tomato things are all his, that the peach jam I made a few weeks ago should therefore be all mine? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Richard definitely lived up to his Best Husband Ever status this afternoon, since he ended up having to run to the store three times throughout the entire pickle-making session. The first trip was planned – we knew we needed dill, so the plan was for me to start work on the cucumbers while he went to pick that up. The second trip was to get the yogurt I needed to start the bread (technically this one is not my fault because I tried calling him, twice, but he’d forgotten to turn his phone on). The third trip, however, was all on me. Somehow I got it into my head that I needed way, way, WAY more dill than I actually did. By the time I figured out that actually, the amount he bought originally was just fine, and called him, he was in the checkout line, paying, massive quantities of dill in hand. Ah well. Look at it this way. Should the world’s economy collapse tomorrow and pickling spices become valuable tender, we will be RICH.