Cook it! 2012 May Resolution

It’s that time again… In case you’re just showing up to the party,  this year a little group of us decided to tackle a different kitchen project every month.  It began as a New Year’s Resolution, a decision to devote some time to learning new skills and having fun messing around in the kitchen.  So far, we’ve made pasta from scratch, baked bread, made fresh butter and fresh cheese.

Now that the sun is out and the garden is starting to grow like crazy, I thought it would be a good idea to get away from dry goods and dairy and start doing something with all these veggies.   Which brings me to the May resolution–  to keep it really broad, let’s just say…. the goal is to ferment something.  It could be something with vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, or it could be wine, beer, kombucha, sourdough bread…  whatever.

I haven’t done nearly enough projects involving fermentation and I wanted to devote some time to learning about this ancient method of food preservation.  Wikipedia says that there’s evidence that people were fermenting beverages in Babylon around 3000 B.C.   (After doing manual farm labor in the sun all day, my brilliant insights regarding this are:  Holy crap.  That is a long time ago.)   The whole concept of it is magical, that you can take some cabbage or cucumbers or whatever and combine them with salt and then wait awhile and *poof* the vegetables preserve themselves.   I love the simplicity.

I’m also drawn to the fact that the produce isn’t really cooked, (unlike preservation via canning) so it will be higher in vitamins and minerals.  And, as you may know, the process of fermentation also creates all of the beneficial microorganisms that make for healthy digestive systems.

— and that last phrase, right there, is why I think I haven’t bothered much with fermentation in the past.   It wasn’t a conscious decision at all.  I fell in love with jam-making and all those jewel-toned jars so easily.  Discussions about jam usually mean talking about apricots and strawberries, and whether or not Weck jars are worth the price.  It seems like chatting about fermentation, on the other hand, almost invariably fast forwards right to conversations about pooping.   If you google kimchi and start researching health benefits, you get a couple sentences into the article and then hear about how eating kimchi helps prevent yeast infections — because really, nothing says “domestic goddess” like healthy girl parts.

So, yeah, health benefits aside, I’m really just doing this because I wanted a way to preserve all these spring vegetables.

The ferment that I made first this month is a traditional napa cabbage kimchi.  Kimchi doesn’t have to be made with napa cabbage, but there’s something about the texture of the fermented cabbage that I really love.  I started small with this project, doing a mini-batch since I don’t own any big fermenting crocks.

Small Batch Kimchi

This recipe is adapted from The Hungry Tigress’ Kimchi Primer, since I know absolutely nothing about making kimchi but she seems like she’s got it down pretty well.  This version is (I think) somewhat traditional, but I used easter egg radishes from my garden instead of asian daikon radishes.  It’s also a little heavy on the radish part since I had a lot of them and they needed preserving.

cook time: 25 minutes active cooking, and then a couple days to ferment

makes: about 2 quart jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1/2 c.green garlic tops, spring onion tops or scallions, diced
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • about 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

for the brine:

  • 1/2 c. sea salt
  • 2 quarts filtered water

Wash the cabbage and slice it into two inch squares.  Wash the radishes, remove the tops, and slice them into very thin rounds.  Combine the salt and water in a large nonreactive bowl and stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage and radishes to the brine.  To keep the veggies from floating, put a plate on top of them and then cover the whole thing with saran wrap.  Leave it out at room temperature overnight to soak.

The next morning, drain the vegetables, reserving the brine.  Mix together all of the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (the minced garlic bulb and ginger, green garlic tops, paprika, sugar and cayenne).   Pour this mixture over the cabbage and radishes.  Give a few stirs to make sure everything’s nicely combined.

Transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to two clean quart jars* and cover with the reserved brine.  Screw on lids and set in a warm, dark corner somewhere in your house.  For the next few days, you’ll need to open the jars and stir them with a clean wooden spoon or chopstick  (to make sure everything is fully submerged in the brine).   The kimchi takes anywhere from 3-6 days to ferment.  It’s hard to describe exactly how you know that it’s fermented, but if you taste it every day, you’ll know when it’s there.  How? Because it tastes awesome. You’ll know.  Once it’s fermented, move it to the fridge.  This will slow everything way down and keep the flavors and textures from changing too much.  Once the kimchi is in the fridge, it will last for months and months.

*I like to sterilize my jars for fridge pickles and ferments because, I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

And then you can have stuff like this for breakfast.  I was making a small bowl of basmati rice with some kimchi, and J. looked at it and said “you should put an egg on that” and man oh man oh man oh man was he right.  Kimchi is good as it is, but it into rice with warm egg yolk  it will definitely put a grin on your face.  Salty, creamy, warm and spicy, it’s hard to beat as far as quick meals go.

Kimchi Breakfast Bowl

serves: 1

cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. steamed basmati rice
  • a few tablespoons of kimchi
  • 1 egg, cooked however you like, seasoned with fresh cracked black pepper (sunny side up or over easy works best for this)
  • any of these: chopped fresh scallions, dried or fresh chilis, a tiny splash of ume plum vinegar or soy sauce, leftover chicken, some salted peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro….. (whatever ya got)

Combine the kimchi and rice in a bowl.  Top with the egg. Garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand and feel like eating.

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To be included in the fermenting round-up, send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com with the link to your post by June 15, 2012. If whatever you’re making hasn’t fully fermented yet, just tell us your plans and what you’ve done so far.

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Vegan for October… And Maybe Longer

I recently found out about Unprocessed October, an online challenge to cut all of the processed food out of your diet for the month of October. It’s such a great idea, not only for the obvious health reasons, but also because October seems to mark the beginning of the annual winter binge- Halloween candy, baked goods, all those heavy winter casseroles and roasts that seem like a good idea now that it’s getting colder out.

I love the idea of beginning the cooler months with a lighter diet. It can take a lot of energy to take care of the farm in the winter, daily chores being complicated by heavy rains and the occasional freezing temperatures. It would be really nice to feel extra healthy going into all of this. So… We’ve already got a little group of friends together who are going to do the challenge, each person with their own takes on what Unprocessed October means to them. I’m finally committing to a vegan diet, supplemented by eggs from our chickens… I think eggs are incredibly good for you (perfect little daily dose packages of protein and vital nutrients) and I know that my chickens are happy as clams. I know that doesn’t really mean it’s a strict vegan diet but I don’t care; I’m still not eating meat or dairy products.


Apart from eggs, I follow a vegan diet a lot of the time anyway, so this shouldn’t be so much of a stretch.  I’ve noticed that when I’m really busy working, cooking for myself is one of the first things to go by the wayside.  As part of doing this, I’m hoping to help find a little more balance in my life and make sure to budget in time and energy to cook real meals for myself.

My Mini Vegan Cooking Primer

Cooking really delicious vegan food is easy peasy if you have a garden or shop at the farmers market, by the way. My general formula for a dinner is this:

  • Vegetable soup/stew/stir fry: no menu planning needed, just walk up in the garden and check out what’s ready. Usually my stews fall into one of two categories: the first is more of an Italian vegetable cacciatore type thing, with crushed tomatoes, white wine, and lots of fresh herbs like thyme or bay leaves. The second would be more of an eastern curry/stir fry, with seasoning ingredients like ginger, turmeric, soy sauce, dried chilis, coconut milk, and fresh cilantro.  If you keep the various spices and pantry ingredients like this on hand, it’s really easy to throw together a masterpiece.  Keeping lots of dried beans on hand also helps get through nights where you might be low on fresh vegetables.  For this time of year, I’m already dreaming of dishes like honey-glazed roasted butternut squash, pumpkin-coconut curry, squash and apple gratins, and more…
  • Some kind of grain dish: I almost always use quinoa with vegan meals since it’s so high in protein and other nutrients, but I also like brown or wild rice.  I don’t make boring grains, either. Add-ins from the pantry or herb garden might include: vegetable stock, fresh herbs like thyme or bay leaves, preserved lemon, sauteed alliums (leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, etc), tomato paste, dried spices like chili powder or turmeric, oven or sun-dried tomatoes, and most importantly sea salt and black pepper.
  • Greens, usually dark leafy ones: I love making creamed kale and swiss chard with a little nutmeg, which is easily made vegan by using hemp or almond milk instead of heavy cream. Just make a little more of a roux than you might with heavy cream and the sauce will come out just as thick and velvety as the dairy counterpart. Regardless of what recipe I use, I try to make sure that every meal includes some kind of greens. Pantry items I keep on hand to make sure they taste amazing usually are garlic, ginger, olive oil, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, roasted peanut oil, chilis, onions, and tahini.  Sauté up some greens with two or three of those ingredients and you’re pretty much guaranteed success.

 

Enough about my plans, though.  J. is giving up meat but not dairy, and one of our good friends who’s been vegan for years is actually giving up processed fake meat and vegan junk food. I’m also giving up refined sugar, and will be making a bunch of new jam recipes sweetened only with local honey.  It kind of feels like a New Year’s Resolution… but why wait til January? We’re doing it right now.  This post is my invitation to anyone else out in the internet universe to join in with us. It doesn’t have to be meat at all. Are there any foods that you’re eating that you feel like are hurting you more than helping? Any bad habits you know you have and haven’t had reason to quit yet?  Here’s your reason.

Gold Beet Salad

Normally I’m totally compulsive about not putting pictures on the internet unless I really like them. That means I barely ever post dinner recipes because I always end up eating when the light is terrible (and I’m too cheap to buy a nice light/ too busy to build a lightbox).

But then I was making this beet salad the other night, and had a bite, and was then the beets said to me:

Beauty is on the inside (in your mouth and belly)

Fancy lighting and photoshop is for Vogue, not beets.

We want to be famous on the internet.

So I told the beets that I would write out the recipe and share it with the universe since it’s delicious and simple and will blow the taste buds right off of your tongue.

Gold Beet Salad

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 large gold beets (or chiogga, or red even, but red are really sweet so maybe reduce the honey a little bit)
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • 1 tbs. flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1. Wash any dirt off of the beets.  Chop off the greens and save them for another dish.  Boil the beets in a small pot until they are cooked through (you’ll be able to slide a paring knife into the center of the beet very easily). 

2. Drain. To remove the peel, hold the beet under running water and rub it with your fingers; the skin should slide right off. 

3. Slide each beet in half and then into half-moons. In a salad bowl, combine beets, honey and parsley and stir gently to combine.*  Season the beets sea salt to taste and a very liberal amount of black pepper (because of how delicious the pepper is with the honey).

 

I hope that you are able to dig up something from the earth and drizzle honey on it soon. It is marvelous.

*(When I was working at this one restaurant in San Francisco, I was making a salad for an order and another cook looked at me and said “what did those salad greens ever do to you?” and I realized that when you are making salads it’s important not to get too crazy with the metal tongs. Be gentle, it keeps your vegetables from getting bruised and all mushed up).

Wild Blackberry Jam

Every August, I’m faced with the tough choice between how much I adore the taste of wild blackberries and how much I hate picking them.  It’s 102 degrees outside, the sun is blazing, picking blackberries almost invariable involves a hike, and, best of all, they’re covered with thorns.  As much as I love California, I still daydream about the soft, dew-covered grass back in New York that you can walk on barefoot all summer long.  The plants on our property here are either pointy (star-thistle, nettles, blackberries, etc.) or make you itchy (poison oak).

Ah, but the blackberries.

Their flavor is rich and dark and perfect for jam. Varying degrees of sweetness from the wild berries makes a complex final product with plenty of sweet and plenty of tart; the berries that make your mouth pucker when you eat them raw are the magic ingredient here.

Of course, make sure that whatever berry patch you find hasn’t been polluted by run-off from a nearby road or sprayed with anything (which is good practice for foraging in general).

The actual making of the blackberry jam is easy as pie.

Wild Blackberry Jam

Since foraging tends to involve inexact amounts of produce (unlike the pretty baskets of berries at the farmers market), this recipe works better written out as a formula.

Yields: every cup of crushed berries that you have will end up equalling about one half-pint jar of jam.

Cook Time: about 30 minutes, but the time will vary drastically according to how many berries you cook in a batch

Ingredients:

  • wild blackberries:  I recommend a batch size of 4 c. of prepared berries.  Much less and you will have to really be vigilant to prevent sticking and burning during cooking. Too many berries and you will end up cooking the jam so long that you may lose some of the fresh blackberry flavor. If you go nuts and pick 12 cups of berries, just split them into four separate batches. The amount doesn’t have to be exact, though. No need to get four cups on the nose. 5 and 2/3 c. would work, or 3 cups, or… you see where I’m going here.
  • sugar: equal amount of sugar to crushed berries

1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. 

2. Rinse berries and drain thoroughly. Put the berries into a mixing bowl and give them a gently crush.  Not enough to completely pulverize them, though; some chunks of fruit in our jam is a good thing.

3. In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the berries with an equal amount of sugar. If you have 4 cups of berries, put in 4 cups of sugar. 1:1 ratio. Easy. 

4. Cook the jam until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or whatever gel test you like to use). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove the pot from the heat and ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe rims clean and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Now hide those jars away, deep in the pantry where no one can find them.  Once people know how good they are, poof! They will be gone. This photo and one lone jar is all I have left from my blackberry picking mission. (My brother discovered the jam and realized that it will make the best peanut butter and jam sandwich you’ve ever eaten.)

The vibrant flavors in these jars taste like August, and remind me of the rows of wild blackberry jam that my mom had on the pantry shelves when we were little kids.

Maybe you’re weary and you don’t give a damn

I bet you’ve never tasted her blackberry jam

-Greg Brown, from Canned Goods

Concord Grape Jam

This is like the Angelina Jolie of jam.

If these grapes were people they would wear cat eye makeup and high heels even when they were just hanging around the kitchen on a lazy Saturday morning.

The flavor is incredible: rich, earthy, sweet and musky.  It is complex and bold in ways that a strawberry can only dream about.

A piece of fruit like that doesn’t just leave the house wearing sweatpants.

(What does this metaphor even mean?)

What it means: I put a cup of really good pinot noir in this jam. I know, it’s kind of tragic not to drink the cup of really good pinot noir. There’s still almost a whole bottle though, so it’s fine, and the wine only enhances that beautiful richness that you find in these grapes.

Sure, you can put this jam on your toast.  You could also pair it almost the same way you’d pair pinot noir, though. The flavors go beautifully with roast beef or lamb, black pepper and arugula. It will be delicious with goat cheese or brie. There’s lots of room for creativity here, no need to stick within the confines of a peanut butter sandwich.Concord Grape Jam 

makes: about 7 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 9 c. stemmed seedless* Concord grapes (if you have a few green ones, in the bunch, throw them in too to help add natural pectin)
  • 6 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. high quality pinot noir

Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Sterilize them if you are OCD like me, but you don’t really need to. 

In a large nonreactive pot, combine the grapes and the pinot and cook on medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the skins on the grapes have all burst. Add six cups of sugar and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or whatever gel test you prefer).

Pour hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process for 10 minutes.

*I was super, super lucky to find actual seedless concord grapes at the farmers market. Varieties do exist! If you can’t find them, you need to do the much more labor intensive version of this recipe. For seeded concord grapes you have to remove the grape skins (pinch the grape between your thumb and forefinger and the skin will slip right off) and cook them in one pot with the red wine until they’re tender. Then put the grape pulp through a fine-meshed sieve to remove all of the seeds. Combine the (now seedless) pulp and cooked grape skins in a large, nonreactive pot and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Mexican Fish and Potato Stew with Green Rice

I have a pile of bills to pay and a million errands to run. (Actually 11. I have 11 separate stops I need to make this afternoon).  There are cases and cases of fruit that need prepping for jam and about 40 dozen eggs I need to sell. We had a really tasty dinner the other night, though, and before I get too swept up in the usual nonsense of Monday, I want to share this recipe with the internet universe.

One of my egg customers is an avid hunter and fisherman, and I end up doing a lot of bartering for beautiful fresh meats and seafood. This last week I ended up with a big piece of fresh cod.  Sure, I could have grilled it with lemon, or made a fish fry, but you gotta go big or go home, right?

Hence, a spicy fish and new-potato stew with rich spices, brightness from lime juice, chilis, cilantro and avocado, and tangy green rice cooked in tomatillo sauce and chicken broth.

One of the ingredients I’ve used is this canned spicy tomato sauce.  The only reason I buy it is the pretty picture on the label, since I could easily make it myself.  If you don’t want to buy it, just put in a can of plain old tomato purée or some diced tomatoes fresh from the garden.  The brand I used has some kick to it, so you can add a pinch of cayenne if you want to replicate the flavor.

Can I just say, totally off-topic here: It is REALLY amazing how expensive the cell phone bill can get if you just go a teeny little bit over your minutes.  I actually kind of feel like someone punched me in the face right now.

There are so many beautiful, well-written food blogs out there.  What the world is really lacking is more writing like this:

I hate Verizon.

Make this stew.

Spicy Mexican Fish and Potato Stew 

Serves: 4-6, depending on how hungry everyone is

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of fresh cod, about 3/4 lb.
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 7.75 oz. can of El Pato Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • 1 16 oz. can vegetable stock (or homemade)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 avocado, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Season the raw cod with the coriander, cumin, garlic powder and oregano.

2 Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add shallots, garlic and serrano chili and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat or until the shallots are translucent.  Add the fish to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes on each side. Add potatoes, vegetable broth, spicy tomato sauce, and half of the chopped cilantro. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (Maybe more, maybe less: the cooking time for a stew depends on how hungry and how patient you are).

3. When the potatoes are cooked through and the broth has turned from a bright red liquid to a more caramelized reddish-brown thick sauce, the stew is ready to eat. Serve it over green rice with diced avocado, cilantro and lime juice. (The lime juice is vital.  Make sure to give each serving a liberal squeeze of juice right before digging in; the brightness of the lime and cilantro will balance out the richness of the spices).

Green Rice

Serves: 4-6

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 7  oz. can of Embasa brand salsa verde (or homemade)
  • 1 small dried thai chili pepper
  • 3 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat up the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Saute the garlic and chili pepper for 2 minutes. Add in the salsa verde and bring to a simmer. Add in the chicken broth and rice and bring everything to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro and season with sea salt. Fluff the cooked rice with a fork and serve with the fish stew. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Fresh: Carrot Soup with Ginger and Coconut

Our summer carrot crop is finally starting to come in, and I’m starting to see lots of nice big carrots at other farmers market booths too. Unique varieties are popping up in gardens all over the country, from the incredibly vibrant cosmic purple carrots from Baker Creek Seed Company to the rainbow carrots from Johnny’s Seeds.

This soup is all about improvisation, with rich coconut milk and fiery hot thai chili peppers and lime juice and garden fresh veggies.

Everyone knows that I’m the Queen of Lazy when it comes to keeping my fridge stocked with anything to cook with.  (I could say that I am eating local and right out of the garden if I wanted to sound like one of the cool kids…)  It’s really also laziness though, and being way too busy to go shopping.  At the end of a long work day, who wants to stop by the store and buy stuff for dinner? Not me.  This ends in a whole lot of improvisation, which I encourage the rest of the universe to participate in. I could have called this Farmers Market Reject Produce Soup, because it’s really just my leftovers from our booth at the market. You could do something similar and make this soup with from a CSA share or your own garden.  Feel free to substitute yellow summer squash for the cauliflower, or even some of the carrots too, it will still be delicious. (To really get crazy, you could actually substitute any winter squash for the carrots and cauliflower. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, you name it.)

Learn how to improvise when you cook and you can be Queen Lazy with me.  Free yourself from the grocery list, you know you wanna…

Carrot Ginger Soup With Coconut Milk And Lemongrass

Serves: 6 large servings

Cooking Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. roughly chopped carrots, about 3 small bunches
  • 2 small heads of cauliflower, preferably Cheddar*, cored and roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tbs. unrefined peanut oil (or canola oil is a fine substitute)
  • 1 fresh onion, both the bulb and the greens, diced
  • 3″ section of lemongrass, left whole (to remove later)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2″ section of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 small dried thai chili peppers, crushed
  • 6 c. filtered water or vegetable stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • garnish: chopped scallions, basil, mint and cilantro (or whatever you have), a splash of tabasco sauce or hot paprika, and a big squeeze of fresh lime juice
In a large soup pot, heat up the peanut oil on medium-low heat. Add the coriander, mustard seed, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, chili peppers, lemongrass, and onion. Saute on low heat for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. The spices will become very aromatic as they saute in the oil. If you need to add another teaspoon or two of oil to prevent things from sticking, go right ahead. 
Add the chopped carrots and sections of cauliflower and saute for another 4-5 minutes.  Then pour in the water (or vegetable stock, if you have it on hand), turn up the heat to medium and bring everything to a simmer. Cook on medium heat for about an hour and a half (or longer, if you get distracted and forget about it). Add water or stock to make sure the vegetables stay covered as they cook. 
After the soup has simmered for the hour and half, add in the cilantro and coconut milk. Remove the piece of lemongrass and discard. Puree with a hand mixer, in a blender or a food processor until the soup is completely smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. If the soup tastes bland (this part is important, it makes it taste like take-out Thai food) add fresh lime juice, tabasco sauce, and salt, alternating in small batches until it tastes right.
Serve with chopped fresh herbs, hot sauce and limes. This soup is delicious with summer rolls or a small cabbage and peanut salad; it makes a wonderful light meal out of the garden or the farmers market.
*Cheddar is a bright yellow variety of cauliflower that is becoming more popular at farmers markets. The yellow color blends nicely with the carrots, but you could certainly use any variety.
P.S. I know that’s a long ingredient list for supposedly not going shopping before you make the soup.  Really it’s just spices and coconut milk, though. If you do one or two big shoppings a year and pick up a nice variety of dry goods you won’t have to worry about it after that.

Pickled Pearl Onions For Some Serious Bloody Marys

It’s really hot outside and I sprained my ankle. That’s the summary of life right now.  Or maybe I have tendonitis or something.  Either way, I can’t do anything except hobble around like an old lady.  I’m going to make cocktails tonight since not being able to work makes me angry. Here’s the more exciting part that makes me happy, instead of angry:

Pickled Pearl Onions With Horseradish Root and Thai Chilis

Pickled pearl onions that are sweet and sour and spicy all at once, with a wonderful extra kick from whole, unprepared horseradish root are going to make for some serious beverages. Onions and other aliums are in season right now and when I saw bunches of pearl onions at the farmers market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Is that bad? That pearl onions instantly take my brain to cocktails? Nah…We have a lot of pearl onions in the garden that should be ready in a few weeks, and while I had grand ideas about serving them with braised meats or roasting them in balsamic vinegar, I have a feeling that they’re not going to make it into any dinners.

This recipe is a loose adaptation from a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in canning.

Pickled Pearl Onions

makes: 4  1/2 pint jars

cook time: 12 hours soaking in brine plus 45 minutes active cooking time

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. pearl onions, peeled, tops removed (don’t throw them away, make kimchi!)
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. mustard seeds
  • 4 pieces of very thinly sliced horseradish root*
  • 4 small dried thai chili peppers (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 bay leaves, split into pieces

1. In a large glass bowl, combine onions and salt and add water to cover.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 12 hours.

2. Sterilize jars and lids. Bring boiling water canner to a boil.

3. The next day, drain the onions in a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.  In a medium sized, nonreactive pot bring the vinegar, sugar, horseradish and spices to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the vinegar.

4. Pack the onions into hot jars and cover with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Divide the spices and horseradish equally among each of the jars. Remove air bubbles with a wooden chopstick or skewer and adjust the headspace if necessary. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

*The natural food store in my town had whole horseradish root in their produce section, and I’m willing to be that stores like Whole Foods would have it too. If you can’t find it, substitute 3 tsp. prepared horseradish when you’re simmering all the spices in the vinegar.

P.S. So, if I could walk and hadn’t spent four hours this morning doing an hour’s worth of work, I would have a picture and a tested recipe for the internet universe.  It didn’t happen. It’s too good to leave this out though…

J’s Fantastic Dirty Bloody Marys

This is an approximation of an amazing cocktail that my boyfriend makes. I don’t even know everything that goes in there, but we can try, right? Caution: I’ve made this many times, but never written it down, so some of these amounts are definitely approximations.

serves: 1

makes: 1 cocktail

special equipment: a glass for your cocktail

Ingredients:

  • a shot or two of vodka
  • cold tomato juice (or bloody mary mix) to fill the glass about 3/4 full
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • a few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbs. green olive juice
  • 3 green olives
  • juice from 1 lemon wedge
  • a dash of your favorite hot sauce (tabasco, tapatio, etc.)
  • garnish: 1 stick celery, 2 pickled onions

Mix all that together in your glass. Drink. Repeat as needed. 

Fusilli With Artichokes and Chevre

I’ve been up to my elbows in jam, getting ready for the Taste Of Mendocino event in San Francisco on Monday.   You should come! hell, even if you live in Kansas, it’s not too late! There are going to be so many amazing vineyards there doing wine tasting that the booze alone should make it worthwhile. Plus there will be meat, cheese, eggs, jams, and so much more.

Anyway, yesterday I got home from the kitchen, essentially covered head to toe in sugary goop.  I wanted real food that was totally devoid of anything sweet.  This lovely little dish is easy to throw together if your feet hurt and you’re really hungry, and tangy lemon, olives, artichokes and white wine will make you forget all about any intense sugar experiences that you may have had recently.

Fusilli With Artichokes And Chevre

As with most of my recipes, the point is not to hunt down specific ingredients but to make use of items in the pantry and the garden. Any olives or capers would be great in this recipe. Feel free to toss in some chicken or shrimp if you have some that needs using.  Roasted red peppers would work well too, but it’s not quite far enough into the summer for us to have peppers lying around.

Serves: 4 entree portions

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 small spring onions, sliced very thinly (about the size of a shallot or a pearl onion)
  • 1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 2 tbs. spring onion tops, sliced thinly
  • 1 large asian mustard leaf, sliced into 1/2″ strips*
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 quart of chunky tomato sauce**
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 c. herbed chevre, crumbled (or whatever your favorite type of chevre is will be fine)
  • 1/4. c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

2. While the water comes to a boil, cook the sauce in a large saute pan: Heat the butter on medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and artichoke hearts and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add lemon juice, white wine, dill, onion tops, and asian mustard greens and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Pour in tomato sauce and olives and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. If it is too thick, add a splash of white wine. If it’s too thin, cook for another 4-5 minutes.

3. Cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain, and return to the pot. Pour the artichoke mixture over the noodles and gently stir everything together. Top with crumbled chevre, parmesan and a few sliced onion tops. (Optional: If you’re feeling motivated, put the pasta in a small casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes to melt the cheese).

*Click here to see the greens that I’m referring to; I know this is a slightly obscure ingredient. Use any quick-cooking greens that you have around, like spinach or young kale leaves.

**We have lots of canned tomato sauce from last summer. If you don’t have it in your pantry, you can substitute any type of chunky tomato sauce that catches your eye in the grocery store.

Raw Sea Kraut

I have been harvesting the last of the winter greens over the last few weeks. It’s summer now, and I need to plant tomatoes and corn, not cabbage. Plus the greens were all starting to bolt, so it was time. 

At first I thought I would can some sauerkraut, but I was feeling lazy.  A little bumble bee in the back of my brain starting buzzing something about making raw kraut, that it is one of the laziest but also coolest projects to do with extra greens.

The reason that I can’t stop fermenting all my extra vegetables, in addition to the fact that sea kraut and kimchi are totally delicious and incredibly good for you, is that the whole process is so easy.

Sterilize jar.

Mix up greens with salt and any other things that make you happy.

Put the greens into the jar.  Wait for awhile.

Salty cabbage greens morph into crunchy sour tasty delicious healthy snack for eating all the time, with everything.

Plus, the fermented greens have superpowers now and can somehow last for months in the fridge (or for quite awhile unrefrigerated as well, though they will keep fermenting and the taste may change, becoming more sour than you want.)

In a nutshell, fermentation is one of the oldest and simplest food preservation methods available.  I think part of the reason I am enthralled by the whole process is that you purposely leave food unrefrigerated and let bacteria start infesting your jars. Years of restaurant work have engrained food safety rules in my head, and when I break them I feel like I am robbing a bank or stealing cars. 

Rules are made to be broken. They are just holding you down, man. 

Go grab that last cabbage in the garden and make some raw sea kraut!

Raw Cabbage and Seaweed Sauerkraut

This sauerkraut tastes like the ocean. The recipe is my own twist off of a basic raw sauerkraut recipe in Liana Krissof’s book Canning For A New Generation. It’s a great book to have in your pantry and I highly recommend it for any preservationist. 

makes: 1/2- 1 quart, depending on your cabbage size (mine was small)

cooking time: about 20 minutes of active cooking and then a week or so of waiting

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried seaweed, I used wakame (see note for more info. on seaweed*)

1. Wash cabbage, remove core, and slice into thin strips. 

2. Sterilize a quart sized jar while you are working on step#3.

3. In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine cabbage, seaweed and salt. Knead the ingredients together, working the salt into the cabbage leaves. Gradually liquid will start to form. Keep going for about 15-20 minutes, and then transfer the mixture to the sterilized jar. It should fit and the liquid should just barely cover the sliced up cabbage. If it doesn’t, keep working the cabbage and salt together (or, in a step which would make this recipe take forever, make a brine, wait for it to cool, and add a little bit to the jar to cover the cabbage leaves). 

4. Weigh down the chopped cabbage with something to keep it below the surface of the liquid. Krisoff’s book and a few other sources suggest a ziploc bag filled with water, but I did it like this:

This is a half-pint sized jar with the lid attached and a long string running underneath the ring of the jar. It perfectly fits inside the wide-mouth quart sized jar that I used for the sea kraut. Drape the string over the sides of the quart jar and screw the ring on to hold the pint jar in place.

If you don’t have this perfect jar combo lying around, just use a ziploc bag.

5. Set aside the jar and wait about a week. You’ll see small bubbles forming, which means that the cabbage is fermenting. After the week is up, give the jar a smell and a taste. If should be pleasantly sour and crunchy. If it’s not sour enough, just wait another few days. At this point, I put the jar in the fridge to keep the flavors pretty much right where they were, but the sea kraut doesn’t necessarily require refrigeration.

How to eat this lovely kraut? I put it wraps with sliced fresh vegetables and on salads. You can make little lettuce cups with sea kraut, bell peppers and grilled chicken or tofu. You could use it in a sandwich. Serve it as a side with stir-fry and rice. The possibilities are endless.

For more information about fermenting, read this article from the Washington Post.

*Note: Dried seaweed is often available in the bulk food section of natural food stores. Wakame is delicious and just the right size for mixing into the kraut, but… funny story…. I realized when I was writing this that I had also used hijiki seaweed, and that several governments have apparently issues warnings relating to hijiki since it contains high levels of inorganic arsenic. You learn something new every day, right? It’s still safe to eat, just in small amounts. Read about it here. I think in the future I’ll just stick with wakame or dulse and avoid the hijiki altogether.