Thursday, August 25, 2011

beans taste better pickled

Growing up, we never put food up.  Who needs to put food up when you can go to the grocery store and buy anything, all year round? 

Two years ago, I tried my hand at canning. And what keeps me coming back is the experience of opening a jar of pickles or beets or tomato sauce to share with friends and family on new years eve. knowing that i grew the garlic and dill and beans that we are enjoying during the dead of winter is an incredible feeling. and so i put up what i can!

this year, i started with dilly beans.  easy, fast, so tasty!

2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
16 cloves garlic
lots of dill
4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
8 teaspoons mustard seed
8 12-oz ball jars
4 cups white vinegar
4 cups of water
1/2 cup kosher salt

1. Start by sterilizing the jars--place jars and lids in boiling water for 10 minutes.
2. Fill your jars with all the fixings ( split beans, dill, garlic, red pepper, and mustard among 8 jars)
3. Bring water, salt and vinegar to a boil.
4. Pour brine into each jar, leaving a solid 1/2 inch of space between rim of jar and brine. Cap the jars.
5.  In large pot, bring water to a boil.  When you put your jars of beans in the water, the water should cover the jars be a few inches.
6. Boil full jars for 10 minutes (more or less depending on your location, read more)
7. Wait at LEAST two weeks to enjoy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

millions of peaches

I just finished making the following recipe, courtesy of Deborah Flateman...former CEO of the Vermont Foodbank and the woman who hired me for my first real job.  i remember the first time Deb cooked for was a staff meeting. i can still taste that risotto pie. she is an amazing cook and this recipe will not disappoint. ENJOY every bite--and follow to the letter!

By Deborah Flateman
What can you say about peaches? When they’re good, they’re really, really good. And when they’re not, well, the disappointment one can feel is beyond description. You know, when they’re dry, mealy, tough- skinned. Not juicy and tender and sweet perhaps like the ones I remember picking from my grandfather’s tree that, despite his gross lack of attention, still managed to produce small, sugar-sweet  orbs of summer delight.  Juice running down the chin with every bite.  Heaven.
My former husband is a guy who, within ten minutes of talking with him, was able to take you into a zillion directional paths. One day at work where he came in contact with lots of folks from all over the country, he struck up a conversation with a real, honest-to-goodness Georgia peach (a really nice lady from Macon) who promised to send her recipe for peach custard pie. And true to her ‘peachiness’ form, she sent this recipe that has become my absolute favorite in the celebration of our fuzzy, pulpy passion. I also include my mom’s tried and true recipe for flaky pie crust. Give this one a try! The process is easier than you think, and the outcome is absolutely outstanding.
Mom’s Pie Crust
2/3 C (heaping) Crisco
2 C Flour
6 T Cold Water

Cut the flour and salt into the Crisco until it resembles coarse meal. Add the water and mix in. Don’t work the dough too hard or it will be tough. This is enough dough for a double crust 10-inch pie.

Peach Custard Pie (preheat oven to 375 degrees)

1.       Line a 10-inch pie plate with Mom’s pie crust (use store bought if you must!).
2.       In a large bowl, beat 3 eggs, 1 C sugar, 3 T flour, 1 t vanilla, and ½ C of melted, unsalted butter (in that order). Set aside.
3.       Peel and slice peaches (about 6 large) into the lined pie plate (peaches should fill the pie plate by about two thirds).
4.       Pour custard mixture over the peaches.
5.       Apply a lattice top over the batter and crimp edges (only a lattice top will work here).
6.       Brush with egg wash and sprinkle sparsely with sugar.

Bake for one hour. Serves 6-8 happy people. This recipe also works with frozen peaches if you have a hankering when fresh ones aren’t around.

Monday, July 25, 2011

birthday dinners

I recently invited a friend to dinner for his birthday (well more for dinner, considering he brought the dessert).

I decided on carnitas--Patrick, my friend, likes Mexican food, I like Mexican food, and because I've made this recipe a number of times, I figured it was a sure bet.

I started with a recipe from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, and after reading recipe reviews, have made a few adaptations.  The result is quite tasty.

I start with a 3 pound lump of pork butt.

Trim the fat and cut in to similar sized cubes. Add meat to dutch oven or cast iron pot, with a tablespoon of oil. Brown meat.

Once meat is brown, add enough water to cover meat (about 3 cups), along with the following:
- one orange, cut into 8 pieces
- one onion, sliced
- 4 sprigs fresh marjoram
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours.  At this point I let the pot cool and refrigerated overnight. 
After a night in the frig, i skimmed the fat off the top, removed sprigs of thyme and marjoram, oranges, and bay leaves.  Heat pot and cook down liquid--about 20 minutes. 
Once liquid is cooked off, turn up heat, add a tablespoon of oil if necessary, shred pork and allow it to crisp up just a bit.

Serve on corn tortillas, with your favorite topping--i like salsa verde, corn salsa, or pico de gallo.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

bike rides and potato salad

I definitely believe that food tastes better after strenuous physical activity--running, heavy lifting, etc.  This recipe, however, would most likely taste just as good without all of that work--although i felt better about having a second helping because i had worked so hard! 

Yesterday a friend and I went for a 35 mile bike ride--up and down Vermont's lovely hills and seriously neglected roads.  At the end of it all a beautiful pool and tasty dinner awaited us.  Dinner, the more important of the two, consisted of slow cooked, fall off the bone ribs, slathered with homemade bbq sauce (hopefully this recipe will be forthcoming), coleslaw and the following potato salad recipe:

Grilled Red Potato Salad with Bacon-Blue Cheese Vinaigrette (a bobby flay original)

Ingredients (enough for 8 servings)
4 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed, cooked until almost tender, drained, and halved
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
Salt and freshly ground black 3/4 pound hickory smoked bacon
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Preheat grill. Toss potatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill cut side down for 3 minutes. Turn over and continue grilling 2 to 3 minutes. Place in a large bowl.

Place medium skillet on stove or the grill and heat until almost smoking. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool and crumble.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the onions and cook until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, and sugar and cook until sugar is dissolved. Pour the onion mixture over the potatoes, add the crumbled bacon and parsley and toss to combine, season with salt and lots of black pepper.

Spoon the salad onto a large platter and sprinkle with the crumbled blue cheese.

The flavors are so rich, a little goes a long way.

Tom and Gloria, thanks for a great day!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

strawberry bonanza extravaganza

phil and i went strawberry picking today at Littlewood Farm in Plainfield, Vermont.  Littlewood is a sweet little organic vegetable and strawberry farm in the Winooski River Valley. It's about 10 miles from our house, but today was the first time i had ever been there. PYO strawberries is in full swing at the farm--$4/lb.

the rain had been threatening all morning but phil's weather radar said it would hold off til noon.  the minute we got to the patch, it started raining. we however came prepared--raincoats and boots!

every time i pick berries, i am reminded of why they are so expensive at the grocery.  hand-picking delicate little pieces of fruit, slumped over, digging around for the most aesthetically pleasing. lucky for me, i didn’t care what my berries looked like--just that they tasted ripe and sweet!
in about an hour we had a heaping tray full of perfect-for-us berries. Nearly 9 pounds!

and then began the task of deciding what to do with them. shortcake, bread, tarts, smoothies, cupcakes, jam, ice cream, cheesecake, daiquiris, chocolate covered strawberries---can you say predicable?   every website has a scrolling carousel with the same strawberry recipes--recipes that most of us have tried and loved, but tried a million times. i really wanted something new, different.  not that strawberries aren't perfect as is, right off the stem...but i was ready for an experiment.

in all my searching i only found two recipes that caught my attention:

1. Wheat Berries with Strawberries and Goat Cheese: not much of an experiment, but i do love wheat berries and it was the first savory dish i found. Below is my adaptation of the recipe by giada de laurentiis. this recipe will definitely serves 4-6 people, easily.

2 cups soft white wheat berries, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Dressing:
1/3 cup oj
juice and zest of one lemon 
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil  
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, packed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 medium strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup (4 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see note)

For the wheat berries: In a large pan, combine the wheat berries, chicken broth, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until the wheat berries are tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Drain the wheat berries in a colander (the berries will not absorb all the liquid) and set aside to cool, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, honey, mint leaves, salt, and pepper until smooth. Pour the dressing over the wheat berries and add the strawberries, goat cheese, and walnuts. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.
Note: To toast the walnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using.

i forgot to mention, that before all this cooking started we did breakdown and make strawberry mint margaritas! Tequila, strawberries, ice, mint, lime--and blend.

2. Strawberry Jalapeno Poppers: the clear standout, from the California Strawberry Festival, Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest.  The following an adaptation from Berry Blast Recipe Contest finalist Allan Oerlemans of Ventura, CA.

wanton wrappers
cream cheese
fresh strawberries
Oil for frying
Remove tops from jalapenos, slice long way. Remove the stem and chop strawberries. Spread small amount of cream cheese on wanton paper. Place jalapeno slice across wrapper. Spoon heaping teaspoon of strawberries on top of cheese and jalapeno.

Fold sides of the wrapper in, then roll.

Use a small amount of water to help hold the wrapper closed.

Fry in oil until golden brown.

Remove from oil onto a bed of paper towels. eat them hot--so tasty. the recipe suggests serving these treats with strawberry jam. i ate them plain. might try them with a salsa fresca next time, but i really like that they aren't super sweet.  I love the bite of the good!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

celebrating the sun, season

yesterday we had a wonderful solstice celebration. good food and drink, great company, perfect weather and a few heart felt games of cornhole.

the menu included roasted dill potatoes with garlic mayo, cold soba noodle salad, caprese salad, mango shrimp, grilled veggie/chicken kabobs (no recipe here--be creative: lots of veggies. marinate everything overnight with your favorite spices and quality olive oil and vinegar), veggie pot stickers with spicy soy dipping sauce, quinoa salad with mint, feta and cucumbers, build your own berry shortcakes, and pimm's cup.

1 pound new red potatoes, bite size dicing
1/3 cup fresh dill
quality olive oil
salt, pepper, cayenne---to taste

Dice potatoes toss with dill, oil, and spices.  Roast at 400 until tender. About 20 minutes. Serve with garlic mayo (made with 1 clove garlic, diced and 1/3 cup mayo).

15 ounces soba noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 carrots, grated
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup smoked tofu, diced

Cook soba noodles--add to boiling water and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). While noodles are cooking, mix all other ingredients together. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. Toss noodles in with veggie/sauce mixture. Refrigerate minimum of 1 hour--I made the salad the night before. Serve cold.

1 cup baby mozzarella balls, drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

mix ingredients, drizzle with oil and vinegar and season to taste. so fresh, so simple, so good.

1 ripe mango
8 ounces fully-cooked shrimp, i used salad shrimp
1/4 cup finely-diced red onion
1 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup finely-chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice the mango. Mix the mango and the shrimp together in a bowl. Add the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover and chill until time to serve.

1 red onion, diced
2 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 package wanton wrappers
Canola oil

In a wok, add a little oil and saute onions and ginger. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the cabbage, carrots and chives. Season. Cook until mixture is soft. Add the sesame oil and cilantro when mixture is cooled. Check for seasoning. Assemble wanton wrappers with mixture. In a hot non-stick pan, coat with oil and place dumplings. When bottom gets brown, add 1/4 cup of water and immediately cover. This will steam the dumplings. Carefully watch the dumplings and completely evaporate the water so that the bottom gets crispy again and sticks to the pot. Makes about 25.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cucumber
4 oz feta
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup fresh mint
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic
quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa and let cool (one cup quinoa, two cups water--takes about 20 minutes to cook). Let cool.  Add diced cucumber, mint, feta and tomato to quinoa and mix. dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  

1 pint blueberries
1 carton strawberries
1/2 pint blackberries
Country Style biscuits
whipped cream
homemade strawberry rhubarb compote (my first attempt at cooking with rhubarb--rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon, cooked until tender and delicious!)
Bake biscuits, wash and mix berries together.  assemble as you please, top with plenty of whipped cream....YUM!

1 part Pimm's No. 1 (gin based liqueur)
1 part lemonade
1 part cucumber water
spash of ginger beer (reed's is a great option)
dress class with lemon wedge and cucumber slice

We had this version while on vacation in Asheville.  The cucumber water (64 oz warm water, 1 cucumber, juice of 1 lemon--mix and refrigerate) gives this drink a refreshing, clean taste.

Happy summertime!