Bread & Butter Sweet Pickles

August 7, 2011 § 3 Comments

Spiny cucs to briny pickles.

When your up to you ears in cucumbers, this is the best way to savor all of them before they cross over into inedible, limp additions to your compost pile.

Before I tried real homemade pickles, I detested everything that had to do with pickling: the smell, the juice & the odd yellow color. When I tell you my brothers would chase me around the house, waving pickles in my face to annoy me, it is no word of a lie. That memory is one that only made me detest pickles all the more. Slowly though, pickled vegetables have been reintroduced to me in a much kinder way than those yellow-dye-disasters I grew up to loathe.


Aside from the fact that they’re delicious on a sandwich, better with house cured meat, funky when thrown into a summer-time salad & just plain old fantastic by themelves, pickles are beneficial when consumbed in moderation. Anything pickled is slightly pro-biotic & aids in helping beneficial bacteria to flourish in the gut; so get to pickling. Plus, pickles are a great way to bring some summertime nostalgia into the late fall & winter (if you have that much self control). Oh & although this sounds odd, adding a couple of tablespoons of pickle juice, a tablespoon of grainy mustard & a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to a basic potato salad, then topping it with chives is an automatic crowd-pleaser (think deviled eggs).

Sweet Bread & Butter Pickles

6 cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds,  1/2 sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced,  1 large white onion, chopped into small pieces,  2 Tbsp kosher salt,  2 cups of Apple Cider vinegar,  1 cup of sugar*,  1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds,  4 cloves,  4 all spice berries,  1 tsp ground turmeric,  1/8 tsp celery seeds

*These pickles are called sweet for a reason. If you prefer a less sweet, more tangy pickle, reduce the sugar by a 1/4 cup.

Combine cucumbers, onions & bell pepper in a large bowl. Toss with kosher salt. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan bring cider vinegar & sugar to a low simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add all spices & simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add the salted cucumber mixture & cook until cucumbers begin to change color (about 5-7 minutes). Turn off heat, cover & let the cucumbers sit until they have cooled. Add cucumber mixture to sterilized jars & store in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.

  I let my cucumbers pickle for a week before eating them.

The time gives them a chance to get a better brine & to soak up the tangy flavor of cider vinegar. However, they do taste great after only a couple hours, I admit, I couldn’t help but try them. This recipe works very well for cauliflower, beets & bush beans.

This recipe was adapted from my all time favorite, David Tanis’s, The Heart of an Artichoke.

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Wineberry Jam

August 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Berries are good by themselves, but when their season comes, making jam undoubtedly comes right along with it.

Besides making this jam, I was not very productive yesterday. The heat was intense, but lovely & I have it to thank for the abundance of berries I found on the side of the road. At first glance I guessed they were classic raspberries, but I noticed slight differences as I began picking them. The berries oozed a sticky red nectar & grew from furry yellow-orange canes.

It goes without saying that only a taste test could confirm my suspicion. I had picked raspberries only two days previous so the taste was fresh in my memory & easy to compare. Wineberries are more seedy & a bit tart compared to raspberries, so I decided they would be best thrown around in some sugar & preserved.

Turbinado sugar gets its name because it is spun to extract the liquid during processing. It holds more moisture & has a the faint taste of molasses due to the fact that it is less processed than white cane sugar.

This recipe works for any type of berry, just adjust the fruit to sugar ratio based on the tartness of whatever fruit you are using. In this particular recipe I used a ratio of 4:1 1/2 cups respectively. Normally I’ll use a ratio of 4:1 cups, but as I mentioned, wineberries are more tart than a sweet raspberry or black raspberry.

To sterilize the jars put them in the dishwasher before use.

Wineberry Jam

8 cups of berries, 2 1/2 cups, plus 1/2 a cup of organic turbinado sugar, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbsp lemon zest, fruit pectin*

*I use Pomona’s Universal Fruit Pectin, it does not require sugar to gel, but instead is activated by calcium so it works really well in low sugar recipes. I will give directions based on how I make the jam using Pomona’s Pectin.

Wash the berries & sift threw them to remove all of the debris. Make calcium water. Add berries & sugar to a medium sauce pan. Add 8 teaspoons of calcium water. Mix over medium-high heat until a light foam appears at the top. Skim off the foam, stop stirring & bring to a boil. Meanwhile prepare the pectin (according to the directions which depend on what type you are using).  In this case, mix 5 teaspoons of pectin with a half cup of sugar.

Once fruit comes to a rapid boil, reduce heat & add pectin slowly while stirring. Be careful not dump it all in at once or you will find yourself with large clumps of pectin. Stir well until pectin has been fully mixed into the fruit. After all the pectin is distributed evenly, bring the jam to a rolling boil. Have sterilized jars ready. Transfer all of the jam to the jars & either boil to seal or refrigerate immediately.

In the refrigerator jelly will keep for at about 6-8 weeks after opening it. If you to seal the jars completely (by submerging them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes), the jam will last for months before it is opened.

Making jam may seem old-fashioned when we can buy it so many places, but it is so much better home-made. It makes a great gift, it’s delicious mixed into yogurt, paired with cheese, warmed over ice cream or enjoyed on some good old buttered toast.

Peach Pie with Homemade Pâte Brisée

July 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Upon entrance to the oven a pie is not much of a pie at all, but merely a flimsy pale dough bulging with crisp fruits of the season. Then, with a blast of heat & the magic of time, a bronzed, pie bubbling with saccharine filling emerges to be consumed by a few lucky people.

Maybe you guessed that pie is one of my favorite desserts. I like how that statement is incredibly broad – it means whatever type of pie I’m making at that moment can be my favorite. The term “pie” in general covers a vast amount of options & the possibilities are infinite: a pie with fruit, with custard, or with pudding; or a whoopie pie, a potpie, or an icebox pie; a pie with a crust of cookies, of graham crackers, of pâte sucrée (French for sweet dough) or of the classic pâte brisée (French for breaking dough); one with a crumbly topping, a lattice topping, a meringue topping, or no topping at all.

This Summer I’ve made several pies, a Raspberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie, an Apricot Pie with Coconut Crumble (both are recipes from Martha Stewart Living) & most recently the one I’m sharing with you now (a recipe of my own).

Pâte Brisée (makes 2 discs)

2 3/4 cup of flour,  1 Tbsp sugar,   1 tsp salt,  2 sticks & 2 Tbsp cold organic butter,  2/3 cup of ice water &  1 egg

In a food processor, pulse sugar, flour & salt until well combined.  Add butter & pulse until coarse, no more than 15 seconds. Add 1/3 cup of ice water, pouring evenly over coarse mixture. Pulse until mixture is tacky & stays stuck together when pinched (the dough should not be sticky or wet). If it is too dry, add more ice water 1 Tbsp at a time & continue to pulse. Shape the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap & freeze (30 minutes) or refrigerate (60 minutes at least) until firm. When


Crumble

2 honey wheat graham crackers, broken into crumbles,  1/2 cup oats,  1/4 cup brown sugar,  4 Tbsp organic butter, melted & 1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)

Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add melted butter, mix & set aside until ready to top the pie.

Filling

4 cups of ripe peaches, cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges,  1 cup of strawberries, quartered,  1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar,  1 Tbsp organic corn starch,  1/8 tsp coarse sea salt

Mix fruit, sugars, cornstarch & salt in a bowl & let sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 9 inch pie dish with butter. Roll out pâte brisée on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick & fit dough into pie dish so that there is a slight overhang. Add filling mixture. Top with crumble, leaving a 1 inch space around the perimeter of the top of the pie. Fold the overhanging crust toward the middle of the pie & crimp edges of crust as desired. Brush the crust with a lightly beaten egg. Bake on the middle rack with a cookie sheet beneath it to catch the drippings. After 30 minutes, tent the crumble with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Continue to bake for 50 minutes (to an hour) until the filling is bubbling & the crust is bronzed.  Cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

This pie can be made the day before & refrigerated.  If you are anxious to dive into the pie as soon as it comes out of the oven, be sure top it with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Sweet Challah Bread

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Not much compares to the fragrance of a fresh log of dough morphing into a shapely loaf of bread. It is no surprise that every culture & ethnicity boasts its own unique bread. Italians are crazy about ciabatta, the French obsess over sourdough, Mexico is known for its corn tortillas & tamales (flat bread, but bread non the less), the Irish love their soda bread, Americans have a thing for Wonderbread (that I have not quiet figured out) & so on and so forth.

I personally like grainy breads, but all artisan bread, so long as it’s fresh is kind of magical.

This recipe comes from Jessamyn Waldman of the Hot Bread Kitchen in New York. It is a flavorful Mediterranean Challah graced with fragrant caraway & cardamom, then wrapped into a “turban shaped loaf”.


Sweet Challah Bread

3 Tbsp sesame seeds, 1 1/2 Tbsp caraway seeds, 1 1/2 Tbsp of cardamom pods (ground into small pieces) , 1 envelope active dry yeast, 2 cups lukewarm water, 5 cups all purpose flour, 2 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, Cornmeal for dusting, 2 large egg yolks
In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds, caraway seeds & cardamom over moderate heat until fragrant. This should only take about 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour with olive oil, honey & the remaining water. Knead until the dough forms. Add the kosher salt, yeast mixture & all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds.
Knead for ten minutes (yes, it’s worth it). Using oiled hands, transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl & let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen. This takes a little more or less than an hour depending on the temperature of your house.
Oil a pizza or bread stone, then dust with cornmeal. Flip the dough onto a floured surface & press gently to deflate. Cut the dough in half & let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope & let rest for 5 minutes longer. Carefully roll rope into a 32-inch rope. Beginning at the center, work your way to the outside, coiling the rope like a turban. Tuck the ends under the coil, cover with an inverted bowl & let stand for an hour
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks & 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves & let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash once more and sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon of seeds. Bake the loaves one at a time in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden. Transfer the loaves to racks to let cool completely before slicing.
Ah… it’s good to be back!

Layerd Confetti Carrot Cake with Creamy Beet-Kissed Frosting

April 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Purple haze carrots straight from URI’s agronomy farm, served to you in the best way carrots can be served: Carrot Cake.This recipe is actually from about a month ago, but I’m just now putting it on thanks to my good friend Cate, a fellow Slow Food member & food enthusiast. Her post, Taste the Rainbow, reminded me to share this cake recipe.

Anyone who knows me well is probably aware that I adore carrots. If you didn’t know, I love them so much that my hands have turned slightly- yes, I’ll say it, orange- which is better than purple! And guess what, it looks like things are working out in my favor.  I was just reading an interesting study from the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior about these little guys. According to this study people prefer the skin hue of those who ate vegetables high in beta-carotene to those who had a suntan. Hmmm…

Okay, here’s the good part!

Layered Carrot Cake:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp of baking soda, 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp fine grain sea salt, 1 1/2 cups organic canola oil, 4 large eggs, 4 cups of shredded carrot, 2 tsp alcohol-free, pure vanilla extract, 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 cup toasted* pecans, 1/2 cup chopped** medjool dates

*To toast pecans, set on a baking sheet. Let toast in the oven, on 325 for about 10 minutes, or until aromatic and crunchy.

** Although you can find pre-chopped dates, buying the whole Medjool dates, rolling them in a bit of flour to prevent any sticking & chopping them yourself, is guaranteed to yield a much richer, more satisfying final product.

Frosting:

8 oz organic cream cheese, 1 cup confectionery sugar, 1 Tbsp beet juice*, 2 tsp alcohol-free, pure vanilla extract, carrot shavings & pecans, optional for garnish

*If you must use canned beets to get the juice, go for it. BUT I recommend just roasting fresh beets, then you have them to eat as well. If you decide to roast them, collect the beet juice from the container beets are in when they are cooling.  See, Maybe they are candy in disguise: Roasted Beets (coming soon).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare 3 9-inch round cake pans by spraying with olive oil & dusting with flour or by lining the bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Wash and peel carrots. Cut into cubes & process in the food processor until they are confetti-like shavings. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon & salt in bowl, mix well.
In a separate, larger, mixing bowl beat together oil and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs & beat until smooth. Mix in carrots & vanilla. Add dry ingredients & mix until they have fully melded together. Fold in nuts, fruit & coconut. Pour evenly into baking pans.
Bake for 25-35 minutes rotating pans half way through baking time to ensure an even bake.  When they are finished, let cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn onto baking rack & allow to fully cool before frosting.

To make frosting, beat cream cheese & sugar until fluffy. Add the rest of ingredients & continue to beat until smooth.

By the way, a scoop of ginger ice cream makes a great addition to this colorful cake. Enjoy!

A Toasted Twist on Chocolate Chip Cookies

March 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Cacao is all the things we sometimes can’t be: luxurious, sophisticated, smooth,  luscious, bitter & sometimes even nutty.

Native to the Americas, specifically South, cacao is a fermented & dried pulpy seed of the Theobroma cacao. Although the name may not sound familiar, cacao is the seed from which cocoa powder, butter, & solids come from. The nibs are more common than you’d guess; heating & grinding the them creates chocolate liquor & adding a bit of alkali turns cacao into Dutch processed cocoa powder.

Cacao not only tastes wonderful, but it also boasts a healthy does of magnesium & supplies the body with antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. Magnesium is vital for women around the time of menstruation as it quells headaches & prevents muscular cramps. In the case of phytonutrients, flavonoids work in the body to prevent the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL) aka “bad cholesterol”. Now, before your get your heart set on eating cacao at every meal, bathing in it, and praying to, it there are some things you should consider:

1. Raw cacao is what is going to give you benefits.  2. FAIR TRADE chocolate or cacao should be a priority while purchasing  3. The mass growth & production of cacao is leading to deforestation- consume wisely.

Toasted Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour,   1/2 cup wheat germ,  1/2 tsp baking soda,  1/2 tsp baking powder,  1/2 tsp sea salt,  1/2 cup unsalted butter,  1/2 cup brown sugar,  1/2 cup cane sugar,  2 large eggs,  2 tsp vanilla extract,  1 Tbsp dark rum,  2/3 cup toasted* almonds,  1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds,  1 cup sweetened cacao nibs** (extra dark baking chocolate or semi-sweet chips work just as well)

* to toast sesame seeds and almonds place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar & place in the preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes. The almonds should be fragrant and crunchy when they’re finished.

** sweetened cacao nibs should be available at your local health or specialty food store.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, place racks in middle. Coat baking sheet with oil.

Whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the butter (with an electric mixer) until light and fluffy, then add sugars, beating until the consistency thickens. Add the eggs one at a time, beat until fully incorporated before adding the next one. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing. Stir in the vanilla & rum. Add half of the dry mix at a time, mixing between each addition. By hand, mix in the toasted almonds, sesame seeds & cacao nibs. Work dough until everything is evenly mixed.

In heaping tablespoons, drop cookies onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Be sure not to over-bake, these cookies are the best when they’re soft.

Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream nestled between them, or dunk them into hot coffee.

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