Monday, August 23

Brandy, Bread, and Okra-Squash-Cheese Casserole

Plum Brandy Aging - Country Style
Life has been a little disjointed, lately, but I did manage to get a few things done. My neighbor was kind enough to share the bounty of her fruit trees and, although her lack of spraying did not produce picture-perfect plums, and we enjoyed some delicious desserts. Along with the hornets and bees (who ADORE fresh fruit), the wind had knocked down quite a bit of still very good fruit that would salvage into some great wine/brandy.  I went for the brandy.  After letting the plums do their thing in some sugar and a touch of yeast for ten weeks, I poured it all through an old T-shirt in a strainer and added the vodka for a gallon of some holiday brandy for pleasure and gift-giving.  The plums made a fantastic full-bodied wine that
 would have been fine on its own, but I really wanted the brandy, soooooo, after keeping an itsy-bitsy test glassful for myself, I bottled up the rest in these half-gallon jars.  They'll sit in the dark and be stirred occasionally for the next three months.  Smooth.

Solar Artisan Bread in Loaf Pans
This is the same Rosemary Artisan Bread recipe that I got from Joyce at October Farm, but I left out the rosemary, this time.  My focus was on getting the same bread in a loaf shape and using tin foil for the early cooking cover and the solar oven at a much lower temperature than called for in the recipe.  It worked great! The crust was crunchy and the bread was beautifully textured, held its shape, and easy to bite through without being too soft. I tried to divide the basic dough between two loaf pans and, although it worked, there just wasn't enough to make a good high loaf.  But, the tin foil idea worked and the lower solar temperature didn't seem to matter, at all.  Great for saving energy and those old BTUs. Next time, all of the dough will go into just one loaf pan.

To keep the moisture in for the first half hour, use the bottom of your loaf pan to make a disposable cover from tin foil.
Fold ends over each other, with a light touch, and ease out loaf pan. Place 'cover' over loaf pan and squeeze  foil ends firmly against ends of loaf pan, crimping up against overhanging edge, if there is one. Press long side edges against pan. This won't be a tight seal, but it's more than enough for the bread action.
This is how the bread looked, when done.  you can see that there wasn't enough dough for two full loaves, but every bit of the flavor and crunch was there -- and, that's what counts. They're just a touch over half high in a standard glass loaf pan.

Solar Cooked Okra-Summer Squash-Cheese Casserole
Nothing is more delicious than fresh garden vegetables.  My first yellow squash was begging to be picked and the first okra had appeared -- what was I to do? I was literally forced to bring them inside, along with two small white onions and fresh herbs from the lasagna herb garden. As you know, I love to line my pans with vegetables for easy cleaning, so the first layer was the summer squash, then the rest of the squash, onions, okra, were tossed around with the chopped herbs (basil, tarragon, lemon thyme) salt and pepper to taste to get evenly coated, then placed over the bottom layer.  Pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth over ingredients.  The topping is a blend of cheddar and mozzarella grated cheeses and some Panko bread crumbs. Finish with a melted Tablespoon of unsalted butter.  Place in preheated solar over until top is browned and tiny bubbles are escaping around sides of pan.  Love those fresh veggie casseroles, don't you?
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