Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Spooky Poem for a Spooky Time of Year

This vintage Halloween card is courtesy of riptheskull on Flickr.

Halloween is right around the corner. So, I can't help but think back on the scariest poem from my childhood. Around this time of year, I simply adored this deliciously creepy delight, which was first published back in 1916 and has been frightening little kids ever since. Be sure and read it out loud with plenty of expression.

Little Orphant Annie
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)

To all the little children: -- The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones -- Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you
Vintage card courtesy of riptheskull on Flickr.
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
Courtesy of riptheskull.
An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

Courtesy of riptheskull.
An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

Can't get enough? Here are some old Halloween superstitions.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Fall Tart for Last of the Tomatoes

The leaves are ablaze with color, and pumpkins sit on nearly every front porch now. Yet, my garden is still producing tomatoes, despite the distinct fall-like weather. In fact, 'tomaccio' tomatoes from Hort Couture show no sign of stopping until the first hard frost.

That's why I took the advice of my talented friend Isabel Gomes, and I'm paying one last tribute to the tomatoes of 2010.

Isabel not only shared the gorgeous food shot above, but also her favorite tomato tart recipe, which she found "ages ago" in an old Williams Sonoma catalog. I'm sharing it below in case you also find yourself with an unexpected bounty of late-season tomatoes. Enjoy!

Tomato Tart

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons ice water
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 plum (or 3-4 heirloom) tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup slivered fresh basil leaves

Using an electric mixer with a flat beater, mix flour and ½ teaspoon salt on low speed, 15 seconds. Add butter; mix to form pea-sized crumbs, 30 to 40 seconds.

Add water 1 tablespoon at a time; mix just until dough comes together. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Shape into a 5 inch disk.

Wrap tightly; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to fit a 9 inch round tart pan.

Press dough into pan, trim to ½ inch around rim and fold in overhang. Press to make sides thicker than bottom; refrigerate 10 minutes.

In a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, warm 1/3 cup oil. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add salt, pepper and tomatoes, sliced side down until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.

Brush pastry with 1 tablespoon of oil; top with cheese, basil and tomatoes. Drizzle with pan juices; season with salt and pepper. Bake until crust is golden, about 1 hour. Serves 4.

Find Isabel Gomes on Twitter @Isabellawrence, on Facebook at Isabel Lawrence Photographers or on her beautiful blog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Make Fruit Infused Vodkas

Just as the leaves begin to change each year, my kitchen pantry starts to fill with jars of jewel-colored liquids infusing with fruit.

These fruit-infused vodkas sit in my pantry from the end of summer until the winter holidays. Depending on what's available locally, I'll infuse everything from elderberries and huckleberries to peaches, plums and pears. Over the years, this ritual has become a nice way to celebrate the end of another growing season. Months later, we enjoy having a small glass of summer sunshine in the dead of winter.

Since late-August, I've added to my pantry as different fruits came to the market. I started with blackberries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries, as you can see above.

But I've since added delightful heirloom apples and plums (see above), which came from an abandoned pioneer homestead and still look remarkably healthy despite little attention.  I've also added sweet shelley berries, which taste like grapes. And I'm determined to get a batch of pear vodka going soon.

Would you like to start your own end-of-summer tradition? Here are ideas to get you started:


1 bottle of vodka
(I recommend Skye, because it doesn't have a strong flavor)
1 large, clean jar with tight-fitting lid
fresh fruit (preferably, local and in season)


Wash, dry and chop fruit; discard bruised parts
Fill jar with fruit
Pour vodka into jar until it nearly reaches top
Make sure vodka covers fruit
Store in a cool, dry place; avoid direct sunlight
Shake jar regularly
Steep at least two months or longer

Timing: Herbs, spices, leaves and flowers only need a week or so to infuse. But fruit can take several months to nearly a year to bring out its true flavor. I allow my fruit vodkas about two to three months to sit, and they taste just fine. Just be sure to shake the jars often to stir everything up well.

Straining: When you're ready to filter the infusion, strain the fruit through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Be sure to push down hard on the fruit to release all the good juices. Then toss the fruit, and pour your concoction through a funnel into a clean bottle with a tight-fitting cap to prevent oxidation. Look for unusual bottles to package your infusions. Most important is that bottles are absolutely clean before use.

Some folks like to add a sugar syrup to their infusions. But we prefer them without sugar here.

Here's an excellent source for making vodka infusions, including other recipes and instructions for sugar syrups. Enjoy!