Friday, October 30, 2009

Super Garlicky Shrimp

I love garlic, always have and suspect I always will. I love to peel it, chop it up and toss it into the pan to smell it sizzling in hot olive oil. Combining this love with my obsession with shrimp and you have a perfect really quick meal that is good tossed on rice or with pasta or on a bed of salad greens.

I've noticed lately that, for whatever reason, I find making shrimp to be slightly decadent. Maybe it's because growing up we only had it occasionally and usually when we were on vacation, or perhaps because I have usually conceived of it as an expensive food item that I couldn't afford. But lately, living near a Trader Joe's Store, I can't get enough of it. So here's my recipe for super garlicky lemon shrimp.

Garlicky Lemon Shrimp

10 raw shrimp, deshelled and deveined
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/3 cup cilantro, minced

In skillet or cast iron pan heat oil until nearly smoking. Add garlic and stir constantly until it just begins to color. Add shrimp and cook on one side until it turns pink; turn over to cook other side (total of about 2 minutes). Squeeze lemon juice over all to deglaze pan and remove from heat. Serve on cooked grains or a bed of salad greens garnished with cilantro.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celeriac Coleslaw

Celeriac or celery root is one of those strange vegetables that is simultaneously repulsive and compelling. Its hairy root end and green tops make it look like a shriveled head, complete with a scratchy beard and green hair. Yet I am always intrigued by it and buy it at least once a season when it shows up at the farmers' market

My first introduction to celeriac was digging it up at my friend Signe's Earthcraft farm in Indiana. Farmers always say celeriac tastes almost like celery, but since it is nothing like the consistency or texture of celery, it can be kind of confusing in how to cook it. It has an earthy, fresh green smell and my first attempt to cook it was to steam it and add some olive oil, salt and pepper. Steaming really brings out the celery flavor, so if you're not a huge fan of cooked celery (which I'm not) I would recommend blanching it in some milk or cream and then sprinkling it with some grated hard cheese.

I have locavore friends who use it in the winter in making soups when celery is not available, but I find it works best either roasted with other root vegetables or raw and shredded as in this coleslaw. Right now I'm cooking from the pantry as much as possible so I decided to just add some carrots, parsley and red onion to this simple coleslaw. Quick and yummy!

Celeriac Coleslaw

1 head celeriac, peeled and cleaned
2 carrots
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1 slice red onion, minced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared spicy mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika and salt and pepper and set aside. On the large holes grate the celeriac and carrots and combine in a bowl. Add parsley and red onion and pour over dressing. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homemade and Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

As a kid I disdained chicken pot pies; I hated gravy and the idea of mixing all of the foods together was a strict no-no in my book. However, when I began eating meat again after a 15 year hiatus the first meat I made was a baked chicken. But once the chicken was cooked, I had no desire to eat it, it just looked too foreign to me. Being the frugal sort I searched for another way to eat it. If the meat was hidden in something like a pot pie I would probably be more amenable to eating it. It was true and ever since then I have delighted in making and eating chicken pot pies!

The great thing about homemade pot pies is that you control the ingredients from the crust to the type of vegetables to the gravy, which is why I have the audacity to title this post a "healthy" pot pie. In this version, the gravy is made with chicken stock (not a roux of butter and flour which is higher in calories). While the crust is invariably made with butter or some other shortening, you can control that to some extent.

Pot pies can easily be made without meat or a variety of other meats; they're a great way to use up leftovers or odds and ends from the refrigerator. In this version I added some fresh fennel and cooked rice along with my usual onions, carrots and celery. Past versions have included potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes. Using lamb or stew beef (already cooked) would be an excellent idea as well. In fact, leftover stews with their vegetables and meat were probably the original impetus for this recipe; just wrap it up in pastry and you have a whole new meal with very little effort. Delish!

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken thighs and 1 chicken tenderloin (or tender as they're usually called) chopped in 1 inch pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock OR 1 cup store bought stock
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or spelt flour is ok too)
2 store bought pie crusts (or make your own with enough to fill pan and cover pie)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add carrots, celery and fennel and cook another 4 minutes until softened. Add chicken and stir and cook another 7-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add stock and bring to low simmer. In separate bowl or measuring cup mix flour with 1/2 cup cold water and blend in all flour so there are no lumps. Raise heat to medium and add flour water mixture and stir as liquid begins to thicken. As liquid thickens into a gravy, add rice and mix well. If rice absorbs too much liquid, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time so that entire mixture is still encased in gravy. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Pour into prepared baking shell and spread evenly. Cover with remaining pie crust and pinch edges together to seal. Poke 8-10 slits in top with knife or fork to allow steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes (it is very hot inside!) Slice and serve.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garlic Lemon Broccoli

There is a chain restaurant in the D.C. area called Maggiano's, and it is known for its family style portions. While it isn't the most spectacular Italian food, one of it's signature vegetable dishes is Garlic Lemon Broccoli and on many occasions I would share some with my core group of girlfiends, known as The Girl Posse.

Last night I attempted to recreate this dish and was thrilled to be so successful! I know that creating a dish with garlic, lemon and broccoli shouldn't be that hard of a feat, but I feared that there was something that the restaurant did that I wouldn't have figured out and it wouldn't have tasted as wonderful. Happily, that wasn't the case. It turns out that steaming broccoli and then pouring quickly sauteed garlic over it and squeezing a bit of lemon on top was all I needed to make a super delicious dish of broccoli! This is worthy of any dinner party or fancy meal and yet very easy to make. I can't believe it took me so long to tackle it!

Garlic Lemon Broccoli

1 bunch broccoli, chopped into equal size pieces (including trimmed stalks)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, not yet juiced
salt to taste

In large pot, steam broccoli until al dente. Drain and set aside in cooking pot with lid on. In saute pan, heat olive oil on high for 1-2 minutes and then add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown. Remove from heat and pour oil and garlic over broccoli and toss to coat. Squeeze (or ream) lemon half over broccoli and toss to mix well. Add salt to taste and additional olive oil if desired. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Mama's Spectacular Meatloaf

My mother has always been a great cook and as a kid, I could never get enough of her meatloaf, especially since she usually made mashed potatoes to go with it! The other day, after a long day of moving, my sisters and I came home to a lovely surprise: my mom had made meatloaf, sauteed Brussels sprouts and German potato salad. What a feast!

Here's a recipe for what she put in this version of the meatloaf which of course is different every time she prepares it. In this version she pulled lots of odds and ends from the vegetable bin and the freezer including fresh red pepper and onion and breakfast sausage cooked in bacon for additional flavor. Clearly I get my experimental cooking approach from her.

Mama's Meatloaf

1 lb ground beef
2 breakfast sausage links, uncooked
2 chicken livers, chopped
1 teaspoon bacon grease
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons 1/2 and 1/2 or milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove casing from sausage links and mash into ground beef. Saute chicken livers in bacon grease and add to beef and sausage mixture. (She simply cooked 3 pieces of bacon and removed them and added the livers to the remaining grease; she ate the bacon but you could crumbed it into the loaf or save for later). In separate bowl, combine 1/2 and 1/2, egg and bread crumbs and allow to meld for a few minutes. Add bread crumb mixture, tomato paste, and chopped vegetables to meat and mix well to fully combined. Add salt and pepper and form into loaf and place in baking dish. Bake for 60-75 minutes, checking for doneness at 60 minute mark (meat will run clear when done).


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blog Contests and You Win!

I participated in my first blog contest and I invite you to check out the rest of the submissions at Tinned Tomatoes. It's a great opportunity to see a bunch of pretty photos and get some great ideas for fall recipes as well as check out food blogs from around the world (impressive span of the globe!)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cream of Tomato and Basil Soup

Halloween is nearly upon us and looking over my recent posts I clearly am receiving subliminal messages to make orange food. From the Bengali Masar Dal Soup to the Thai Ginger Carrot Soup to today's edition of Cream of Tomato and Basil Soup Halloween is clearly working its magic on me.

I was introduced to this soup at Just Food Co-op, and having previously been a tomato soup hater I was pleasantly surprised by this delicious concoction. Lots of basil and a touch of sweet cream makes this a spectacular comfort food that you'll love to make since you can whip it up in 20 minutes.

The happy inspiration for making this particular soup was the abundance of heirloom tomatoes still at our farmers' market this weekend. While this soup is wonderful made with canned tomatoes, I decided to use the fresh ones for extra sweetness. Delicious!

Cream of Tomato and Basil (4 servings)

3 large tomatoes, cored and pureed in blender (or 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, packed, chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream (or 1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2 but cream works best!)
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook another 3-5 minutes until soft. Add tomatoes and basil and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and then cream. Puree in batches in a blender and season with salt and pepper.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fun New Blogs to Check Out

Part of the fun of having a food blog is checking out other food blogs for ideas, recipes, and fun stuff. I recently went trolling for more blogs to put on my list of ones that I check daily (my website lists them in order of the most currently updated so it changes each day).

Many of the new ones I found recently are off of Tinned Tomatoes so they're primarily vegetarian sites, which I really love since I find vegetarians are very innovative cooks (no bias there!)

I hope you visit these new sites and get some inspiration!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Thai Carrot Ginger Soup

The other day a friend asked for "my butternut squash soup" recipe and while I was flattered that she came to me, I actually don't have one as part of my repertoire. But having cooked in so many different venues and criss-crossing over cultural cuisine lines I simply adapted a recipe that I used to make for the deli I managed. That recipe was a sweet potato, carrot and ginger soup with Thai ingredients like coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro. It is phenomenal and the best seller at the deli.

Inspired by converting that recipe to a butternut squash one, I looked in my pantry and saw that I could make my own variation, with carrots as the primary ingredient and red potatoes to substitute for the sweet potato. As usual, Thai flavors stand up to substitution and it was a wonderful soup that I whipped up in 30 minutes. The trick to making a quick soup from scratch is chopping the hard vegetables (carrots, potatoes) in very small dice so that they boil in 5-7 minutes.

No matter which orange vegetable you use - carrot, sweet potato, or butternut squash - this is a gorgeous soup, visually and on your tongue.

Thai Carrot Ginger Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger (about size large thumb)
1 onion, diced
4 large carrots, diced fine
2 fist size potatoes (red or yellow) diced fine
4 cups water (or 2 cups plus can of coconut milk)
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
salt and pepper

Saute onion in olive oil until tender and translucent in large sauce pan. Add carrots and saute another 5 minutes. Add ginger and cook another minute. Add potatoes and water and bring to boil. If using coconut milk, add now as well. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes and carrots mush easily when pressed against side of pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes (or add 1 cup ice cubes to the cooked soup, stir to melt). Process in batches in blender until smooth. Stir in cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sauteed Vegetables with Bacon and Israeli Couscous

I was a vegetarian for 15 years and was very happy living so until I decided to open an inn and conference center and my non-vegetarian friends convinced me that I had to serve meat, in addition to the fabulous vegetarian fare I had developed. That was three years ago and while I am not a "hunk of meat" eater, I do enjoy flavoring my food with meat, particularly cured pork products like bacon or pancetta. I love the smoky salty flavor it imparts to a simple stir fry like this one I whipped up recently, which serves as wonderful comfort food as the rains descended on the California coast.

Similar to this previous post, this dish combines cooked grains with a quick sautee of vegetables and about 1 tablespoon of bacon. Israeli couscous is kind of a cross between rice and Moroccan couscous in that you need to boil it in about twice the amount of water but don't need to cover it (to steam as rice is cooked). So it is fast, but not as fast as Moroccan couscous, which I can't digest very well.

I'm a huge fan of using red cabbage in quick sautees since a little heat brings out its natural sweetness. Together with the smokiness of the bacon and the heartiness of the Israeli Couscous, this is kind of a perfect meal!

Sauteed Vegetables with Bacon and Israeli Couscous

2 strips of bacon, diced
1 small stalk broccoli, chopped
1-2 cups red cabbage, roughly shredded
1/2 bunch kale, roughly shredded
1/2 onion, sliced lengthwise
splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup Israeli Couscous
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan combine couscous and water and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook 15 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, sautee diced bacon in skillet until most of fat has rendered but bacon is not yet crisp. Add onions and cook another 3 minutes. Add broccoli and cook another 3 minutes. Add red cabbage and cook another 3 minutes and then add kale and cook another 3 minutes until wilted but still green. Stir in couscous and adjust for salt and pepper. Taste the dish and if you like, add splash (teaspoon) of balsamic vinegar, which serves to bring out the sweetness of the cabbage and temper the bitterness of the kale.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

I rarely have a desire for dessert - I will always chose bread and butter over a sweet. But when I do crave something sweet I want it immediately and have no patience with baking. Enter No Bake Cookies.

I found these on the Food Network site, and they are both fast and fantastic! I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter so I know that these won't stick around long!

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal

In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil, the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute then add peanut butter and vanilla and stir well to allow peanut butter to mix in. Remove from heat and stir in oatmeal and blend well. On a sheet of waxed paper, drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls. Chill in the refrigerator until cooled and hardened. Makes about 3 dozen (depending on how much batter you eat!)


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bengali Masar Dal Soup - No Croutons Required

I am realizing that my taste in food blogs (as with my food interests) tends towards the more homey and rustic and less towards sophisticated gourmet. A case in point is Tinned Tomatoes, which has great recipes and just a bit of a homey touch. Also, its author Jacqueline posts nearly every day and she's part of the team that produces "No Croutons Required," a monthly soup recipe contest.
This month's challenge was to make a soup using only what you already had in the house, pantry or garden, a wonderful challenge that definitely fits with my current need to conserve cash and cook off my pantry. So I turned to an old standby that is anything but stodgy, Bengali Masar Dal Soup.

Actually, this is really a Dal recipe, dal being the standard term for Indian lentil dishes that have infinite variations. When I was the Deli Manager at Just Food Co-op in Minnesota, I needed to expand our repertoire of vegan soups for the deli and that was when I first made this dal as a soup.

While I don't remember where I got this recipe I'm sure I picked it up the year I was first introduced to Indian cooking my second year of grad school at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. At that time Tech specifically recruited international students for its graduate programs and India was well represented in the various schools. One of the first friends I made there (and still a dear friend) is from New Delhi and he introduced me to home cooked Indian food. What a revelation! That was more than 15 years ago and I still love eating and cooking it!

Similar to Chinese or Thai cooking at home, the key to successful Indian cooking is having the appropriate ingredients. Happily, it is spices that render Indian dishes authentic, and once you have a store of them, you can cook without fear. Fenugreek is the only spice in this recipe that was unknown to me until I decided to make this dish. I couldn't describe the flavor but I know without it, this dish is lacking something.

Bengali Masar Dal Soup

1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
2 hot fresh green chilies (I used Thai ones from my garden)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon grated ginger (piece about the size of a thumb)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon panch phoron*
4 bay leaves
3 dry red chilies
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Place lentils, green chilies, turmeric, water and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until lentils are tender. Meanwhile, saute onion in oil until translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and ginger and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until it forms a paste and looks like this:

Add the paste to the lentils and allow lentil mix to continue cooking on low heat. In separate pan (I use my cast iron one) dry roast the panch phoron, red chilies and bay leaves until the black mustard seeds begin to pop. Shake the pan as it begins to toast the mix so that the items don't burn. Remove from heat and add the tablespoon of garlic and let it sizzle and mix in with the seed mix. Add to the lentil soup and stir in well.

The flavors will definitely improve overnight, but you may want to remove the green chilies since they continue to impart spicy heat to the soup day after day.

* Panch phoron is a spice mix of equal parts cumin seed, fennel seed, black mustard seed, and fenugreek. Technically it also includes Black Onion seeds, but I have never had them nor included them, so my panch phoron does not!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Quick Chicken Parmesan

My love affair with Italian food continues. Today I made a semi-quick chicken Parmesan, which means I pan-fried the breaded chicken and then spooned tomato sauce on top and just let the heat melt the cheese, as opposed to placing it all in the oven for a quick bake. It was luscious - the crisp breading of the chicken kept it moist and the flavorful tomato sauce topped with shredded parmesan was delicious.

The breading is a variation on my sister's Martha's famous fried chicken, what I was planning to call "Martified Fried Chicken" when I was planning to open an Inn (view some of my hilarious attempts to literally build my Lovejoy Inn.) She uses a combination of oat flour, whole wheat flour, ground flax seeds and rolled oats to create a crispy delight to which I have yet to find an equal. Since I am in frugal mode, I ended up chopping up some rolled oats for the oat flour and doing without the flax seeds. Not as authentically Martified, but still very good.

While the total prep time for me was about 1 hour and 15 minutes since I made the tomato sauce (I'm being extra frugal these days and had some leftover canned tomatoes in the refrig), this could easily be a "30 minute meal" as many people seem to want these days. Unlike the baked version, this approach does not keep well since it's essentially a restaurant style dish; you place the fried chicken on a plate and top it with the sauce and cheese so there's little structure to it. If you hold back pieces of chicken and extra sauce, you can repeat the process later and simply heat up the chicken, either in a microwave or wrapped in foil (to keep it from drying out) in an oven at 350 degrees.

Chicken Parmesan (2 servings)

1 chicken breast, boneless, fileted into two pieces
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup tomato sauce
shredded parmesan cheese to pass at the table
oil for frying

Chop 1/3 of cup of rolled oats either by hand or in a food processor or blender. Add to remaining rolled oats and wheat flour and add salt and pepper and mix well. Place on plate. Place beaten egg in a bowl large enough to dip in chicken filets. Using left hand, dip chicken in egg on both sides and place on plate with breading mixture. Using right hand pile mixture on chicken and flip to coat evenly. Repeat with other filet and set aside to rest. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce on low heat on stove and keep warm. Pan fry breaded cutlets in about 1/4 inch of oil until browned on both sides. Cut into cutlet to make sure it is done. Remove from stove and spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Crab California Rolls

California rolls are not really sushi, according to Japanese sushi chefs, but we Americans do love them! Apparently California rolls were invented in the 1970s in Southern California by a Japanese American Sushi chef who wanted to tempt Americans who were not enticed by real sushi, raw fish. I love both but have not attempted real sushi making at home. California rolls, on the other hand, are really easy and so satisfying!

As with most Asian dishes, having the right ingredients, prepared in advance, makes this dish more manageable. While crab, cucumber and avocado are traditional in California rolls, you can be more creative if you like. Right now I'm trying to cook from what I have and not buy any special ingredients so I decided to use the canned crabmeat from Trader Joe's that I had in the pantry, some shredded carrots for color, and slices of the refrigerator pickles I just made. While the last item seems really out of place, it mimics the pickled cucumber or daikon radish that is often featured in all veggie rolls sold in stores; it worked wonderfully.

Many how to's on making sushi will insist on using a sushi mat; I've never used one so don't let that slow you down. I'm sure it produces a tighter, prettier looking roll, but I've been happy enough with what I produce (and it always looks impressive!) I just place the nori sheet on a dish cloth or cloth napkin and use that as the starting point. If you've ever rolled a sheet cake for a jelly roll, it's a very similar experience (if not, you'll learn by doing!)

Crab, Pickled Cucumber and Carrot California Roll

1 cup sushi rice
2 cups water
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 sheets of Toasted Nori (seaweed)
1 8 oz can cooked crab meat
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 carrot
3 slices refrigerator pickles, skin removed, sliced thinly
pickled ginger
soy sauce for dipping
wasabi (optional)

Place rice in water in pot and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover and cook until done, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and scrap into bowl. Add rice wine and rice wine vinegar and mix in well. Spread rice around bowl sides to allow it to cool rapidly and set aside. While rice is cooling, prepare fillings. Mix crab meat with mayonnaise, cayenne and salt and set aside. Grate carrot on large holes and sprinkle with cider vinegar or lemon juice to keep from browning; set aside. Cut pickle into strips.

Place nori sheet on cloth, folding cloth so that each edge fits the edge of the nori sheet. Spread 1/3 of rice on nori, using your fingers, dipped in water, to spread rice on sheet. Spread rice to side edges as evenly as possible and leave 1/2 inch border at top and bottom. Keeping a bowl of water for dipping your fingers into keeps the rice from sticking to them too much. About 1/2 inch from the bottom edge of rice, make a line across the rice and spread the crab mixture across. Place the pickles just above the crab, fit snugly against it and then sprinkle on the carrots. (If you have wasabi you can also spread a thin line along the rice above the vegetables or use it during the dipping action when the roll is completed.) Here's what a roll will look like.

Using the edge of the cloth nearest you, begin to roll the sheet, moving slowly and turning evenly. Just before finishing the roll process, dampen the top nori border with water and then finish the roll. With the seam side down, press into the roll a moment and then flip it, seam side up. Moisten the top of the seam with water until it "melts" into the nori sheet. Set roll aside, seam side down and finish other sheets of nori.

When all of the rolls are done, place roll seam side down on a cutting board and using a serrated knife, carefully cut into slices, periodically rinsing the knife as rice sticks to it. The cut rolls will keep for about 3 days refrigerated. Enjoy with soy sauce, either thinned with a little water or not, pickled ginger and wasabi.

By the way, the ginger in the photo above is not pink because it is a natural version, without the pretty pink dye!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

You Say Refrigerator Pickles I Say Quick Pickles

I grew up on homemade dill pickles that my dad made and fondly remember watching him remove the jars from their water bath to rest on the kitchen counter. Of course as a child I felt like the weeks they needed to cure were an eternity and personal punishment.

When I have space for a garden, I can my own using my father's recipe that I found years after he had died (his secret ingredients were black peppercorns and grape leaves to keep the pickles firm). This season with no garden I have relied on the kindness of friends which inspired this batch of quick pickles, sometimes called refrigerator or barrel pickles.

No matter what you call them the premise is the same; submerge fresh cucumber slices in spices, water and cider vinegar and allow the vinegar to pickle them. Keeping them in the refrigerator simply reduces the risk of bacterial formation on the top of the liquid. Barrel pickles, most often found in old fashioned delis, had a lid on top that insured that the pickles stayed beneath the surface so any brine that floated to the top and got scummy could easily be skimmed off.

I made these two days ago and while I was hopeful that my spice mixture would produce a spicy garlickly pickle, so far it is simply a beautifully mellow sweetish one. I wonder how that will change in a week. Either way, experiment with whatever spices inspire you. I could see doing a more Indian curry version that would probably be fantastic (although definitely not kosher!)

Refrigerator Pickles (Makes 3 quarts)

5-6 large cucumbers, cut into even spears
9-12 cloves garlic, smashed
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 teaspoons red peppercorns
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
6 red dried chilis (thai, serrano)
3 tablespoons dried dill (or 6 tablespoons fresh)
3 tablespoons salt
6 cups water
6 cups cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar, only substitution)
6 fresh grape leaves*

In three clean quart jars, divide the ingredients evenly except the water and vinegar. Pour 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar into each jar. Add equal amounts of water and cider to each jar until full to 1 inch below the rim. Cover and refrigerate. You can begin eating them within a couple of days, but without grape leaves, they will go mushy after a couple of weeks (but I think there is little chance of them lasting that long!)

*Ironically I could not find wild growing grape leaves here in Ojai, which is silly since I'm in wine country). In Minnesota they twinned up phone poles everywhere, so it was not a problem. If you don't know what they look like and don't have someone who knows for sure, don't pick what you don't know!