September 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Last year I had a Ziploc bag of small red beets sitting in the hydrator for … months. Months. I had intended to pickle them. Didn’t happen. They sat for ages – actually, I was quite impressed with just how long they lasted – until one day they were just gone. I think Jennifer may have realized the pickling wasn’t going to happen. Or I chucked them and don’t remember.
The pickling didn’t happen because I couldn’t decide on exactly how to tackle it. What recipe to use? What about canning them? What if?
My god, I can’t live with the what ifs anymore. Just freakin’ pickle beets, Dainty.
That’s exactly what I did last week. And I’m happy to say I have a quart of beautiful pickled beets sitting in my fridge at this very moment.
Well, what recipe did I decide on, you ask? It’s a combo of a recipe found in the August Bon Appetit and a recipe for Vinegar Beets from my mother, which I just found out was her mother-in-law’s recipe; i.e., it’s old.
Mom’s recipe calls for boiling the beets until tender, slip off the skins, and combining a cup cider vinegar, a half cup sugar, 1/4 tbs cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp allspice berries, 1/4 tbs mustard seed, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp whole cloves. She boils that for 3 minutes, then adds the beets to boil again. Then she adds the beets to a jar and strains the liquid. Boiling twice?? To infuse the beets with the spices, she said defensively.
On the other hand, Bon Appetit suggested 3/4 cup each of red wine vinegar and dry red wine, 1/2 cup sugar, 1.5 tsp salt and star anise.
- About 2lbs. beets – I used a combo of red and golden, and don’t use any that are too very large
- 1.5+ cups red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 – 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 – 1 tsp whole cloves
-Boil the beets until a sharp knife slips through your largest beet. Could be 20 minutes, could be more – it all depends on the size. Drain and let cool until cool enough to handle.
-When cool, the skins just slip right off. Pretty darn amazing how easily they come off. FYI, you’re gonna stain your hands.
-While those cooled, I cleaned/sterilized a 1-qt. jar. I added the cinnamon stick (which I crushed a bit), the mustard seed and the cloves.
-When the beets were cool, I left the small beets whole and put them into the. jar. The larger beets I cut into quarters, and some of them I sliced.
-Meanwhile, I combined 1.5 cups vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and boiled until the sugar and salt dissolved. Then I let it cool a bit. While it was still a tad warm, I added the liquid to the jar.
-Turns out 1.5 cups vinegar wasn’t quite enough to cover the beets in the jar. Hence the “1.5+ cups vinegar in the ingredient list. I warmed another 1/4-cup-ish of red wine vinegar added with a couple pinches sugar and a nip of salt. Dissolved that, then topped off the beets.
-And then I did something crazy: I added a half-shot of Southern Comfort. Bon Appetitit’s recipe called for dry red wine, so hey, why not a glug of SoCo? Barely perceptible, but there is a hint of a sweet smokiness. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.
Cover, let sit on the counter for a day to let the flavors develop, and then give ’em a try. They’re good! And they really do only get better with time.
What? No canning them? I decided not to, and opted for the “put them in the fridge for easy access” method. I still have beets in the garden – two sets of beets, actually – one that’s ready for harvest at any time and one that I just planted a few weeks ago for a late-November harvest. The latter will likely be headed for pickling, and this time for the canner, as well. And this time I mean it.
September 1, 2011 § 3 Comments
What does a gardener do when a little thing like a hurricane is imminent? She cleans out the garden of all ripe, nearly ripe and totally unripe tomatoes, that’s what she does.
Ripe tomatoes have been dispatched to salsa, gazpacho and pizza toppings.
Somewhat ripe tomatoes are on a tray and ripening, possibly for a sauce.
Ripe cherry tomatoes are … well, in a bowl and thinking of what they want to become. Possibly tomato cobbler. We’ll see.
The unripe tomatoes – interestingly all cherries – are destined to be pickled.
I know what you’re thinking: Pickling is soo sooo very trendy. Maybe it is. BUT … I’ve been pickling green cherry tomatoes since 1994. My housemate at the time – Lou – had been pickling since forever and shared the recipe. Pickle the cherries at the end of the season – right as you’re grabbing them off the vine before the first frost – and they are good and pickly and presentable as hostess gifts for fall dinner parties. Oh, that Lou.
A couple of notes:
1. Pickling green fruit is key here. Too much red ripe deliciousness and they cherry will swell and burst, making a jar full of mush. But, I do try to add a cherry or two to the jar that is turning just a bit orange. It’s pretty. So so pretty.
2. Would it be okay to cut green slicing tomatoes into chunks and pickle them? Well, yeah, maybe. I’d remove the pulp and use just the flesh. We want to avoid mush.
3. And with the pickling spices, garlic clove and sneaky pepper, they taste just fabulous. Ohhhh …. yum.
Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes ala Lou
- 21 8oz. jelly jars with new lids and rings
- 8 cups white distilled vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup salt
-Don’t have enough tomatoes to fill 21 jars? Work the proportions for the number of jars you can fill. I quartered the recipe and it filled 6ish jars.
-Boil the above and let cool.
To each jar, add:
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1 chili pepper, aka “a sneaky pepper”
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove
-Add tomatoes to each jar, filling to within about 1/4-1/2 in. of the rim of the jar. Don’t jam them in too tightly – they may burst if forced.
-When the liquid has cooled, fill each jar to cover the tomatoes. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the ring. Let sit out overnight and then place in the refrigerator.
What about preserving them with canning? It’s definitely doable! I’m not the one to tell you how to do it. Really. Even though I witnessed my mother can jars and jars of everything from apricots to zucchini, none of it stuck in my head. And if something goes wrong … like when that jar of canned tuna wasn’t sealed properly … it can go terribly wrong. And I’m not gonna be responsible for your botulism.
August 31, 2011 § 2 Comments
When I was a kid, my father would get a little stir crazy in winter and he’d do the worst thing a man with a 1-acre garden could do: Sit for hours with the Johnny’s Select Seed catalog. Fathers don’t get giddy as a rule, but I swear my dad would get as giddy as any school girl when the … um, somewhat large and heavy … box arrived. Sure, some of the seeds were for the farm: Seeds for 100 combined acres of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and pumpkins are a bit heavy. But then there were the items destined for our garden. Corn. Watermelon. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Zucchini. Squash. Yum. Yum.
But then … then there were the despised seeds: Peas and lima beans. And I swear, every single seed of those two crops came up and produced a bounty. Bleck and ugh … I really don’t like peas and lima beans. Really. Don’t. Like.
The worst part, really, and I don’t know how many of you can relate … the worst part was having to help my mother shell the bushels and bushels of pods these horrid plants would produce. You know how big a bushel is, right? It’s a lot. And now picture lots of lots. And having to take one lima bean pod or one pea pod, slicing it down lengthwise with your thumb nail, and then cajoling each pea or bean out of its home with said finger and into a pan. Pans and pans and pans of peas and beans. And Mom would blanch these mounds and mounds of peas and beans, put them into little plastic baggies, put the baggies in boxes, put the boxes in the freezers (yes, we had multiple freezers to store multiple upon multiple boxes), and then those boxes would come out of the freezer in the deepest, darkest of winter and end up on our plates. And then after dinner Dad would get out his Johnny’s Select Seed catalog and order more for the coming spring …
I really hate peas and lima beans. Really.
What did I find myself doing yesterday pre-lunch during my vacation? Shelling beans. Not a bushel, thankfully; just a gallon ziplock’s worth. The beans in question we grew in our garden this summer. No, not peas and not limas.They are Vermont cranberry beans. Beautiful pink and red speckly things. Gorgeous, really. No, I didn’t snap a pic pre-cooking. Sorry. But yes, we grew them this year—my garden plot neighbor has been growing them for years and loves loves loves them. Easy to grow. I’d tell you more about how to grow them except … well, okay, I’ll tell you. Sow the seeds about 2 inches apart in a row. Water. They will emerge. They’ll keep growing if you keep watering. I can’t even recall if I had to fertilize. It’s seriously that easy, people.
And the process at the other end of the line is just as simple, and way way way delicious. So very not a lima bean.
Vermont Cranberry Bean Salad from Epicurious.com)
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/4 cup evoo
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
- ground black pepper
– Shell beans and place in a saucepan of boiling salted water. Salt the water! That way the beans really take in the flavor.Unfortunately, the boiling spoils the beans’ beautiful coloration.
– Boil the beans until they are tender. If all of your beans are picked at the same stage, they should all come along at the same time. Mine, not so lucky. To get the “more done” or more dry beans to a tender stage, the more fresh beans got a tad over-mushy. But, I kinda liked the variety within the dish.
– Drain beans and transfer to a bowl. While beans are still warm, toss with remaining ingredients and season with salt, if needed. Serve still warm for a fabulous flavor, or at room temperature.
I could eat this for days. And luckily, there’s a bunch more beans ripening when we get home.
August 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
Okay, so I’m rushing for two reasons: 1) A big storm’s a-brewin’ and 2) leaving town for a week. What’s that mean? Gotta hit the community garden plot this morning and harvest.
Tomatoes are gonna get whipped in the storm. Pair that with the fact that they look like hell anyway (I think we have blight – that’s like having lice to me), I decided to harvest all the tomatoes except a few very green ones and rip up all the plants except the best two.
What else is on the list? Here it is:
- Cherry and slicing tomatoes in all stages of ripe- and unripeness
- Vermont cranberry beans
- Green bean
- Yellow and green chard
- A cabbage
- A big ol’ purple carrot
- A zucchini – full disclosure: It’s not mine – another gardener gave it to me.
*Missing from this list are a handful of Hungarian wax peppers and a yellow squash. They were camera shy.
All of this will be processed in some form or another – along with a boat load of beets I harvested last week – in the coming week. Stay tuned!
Any suggestions? Anyone have experience frying sage leaves? What should I do with a huge purple carrot? Leave a comment, let me know.
August 23, 2011 § 3 Comments
Think of all the good things in life.
Basil. Mmmm … Parmesan cheese … Olive oil … Garlic … Nuts … Chocolate … Okay, wait, drop that last one. All these are tasty on their own, very tasty. But whir them up together in a yummy pasty sauce and you have heaven on a spoon—basil pesto.
Basil is just one of the pesto varieties we make in the Dainty household. There are others. Oh, there are others. But typically, basil pesto is the shining star in so many dishes. A couple of dollops on pasta for a quick on-the-go meal. Spread it cautiously as a pizza topping. And schmear it on some rye bread for a tomato-provolone-pesto grilled cheese. Oh, yeah, I went there. Grilled. Cheese.
The secrets to good basil pesto are two-fold: Great-quality ingredients and a nice ratio of basil:parm:pine nuts:evoo. The amount of garlic, honestly, depends on your tastes. The recipe I use is from an old, back-‘n-the-day Moosewood cookbook called the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden. Not too much cheese. Not too saucy. Plenty of basil flavor.
Pesto Genovese (from Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden)
- 3 cups loosely packed basil (avoid stems)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup evoo
-Place the basil, pine nuts parm and garlic in a food processor. I like to put in half of all the ingredients, give it a whir, and then add the other half and give it a whir. That’s just the best way in my machine – things don’t get jammed in there that way. Be sure everything is chopped evenly. Give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
-With the food processor on, sloooooowly add the olive oil in a steady stream. It’ll slowly become paste-like. It may bunch up on the bottom—stop the machine and get all the good stuff from the corners. DON’T add all the oil. Stop the machine, give it a tasty. Good? Needs salt and pepper? Add some. Is the consistency kinda rough and thick and you like it? Then stop. Like it a bit more smooth? Keep whirring and add the remaining oil.
NOTE: The beauty of pesto is this: It can be any way you want it to be. Chunky. Rough. Pasty. Saucy. Hey, you’re the one eating it. Eat what you like.
-When it’s whirred to your liking, use what you intended it for right away.
OR—and this is the important part—take action to keep the pesto’s vibrant, fresh-green color. Here’s how:
-Place the pesto in an airtight food storage container (glass, plastic, whatever) that is large enough to allow some room on top. Smooth the top into a flat layer.
-Drizzle a thin layer of evoo on top so it completely covers the pesto. You don’t need to much but you do need to make sure all the pesto is covered.
This keeps the air from oxidizing the basil and keeps the bright green color. But you’re smaht, I’m sure you already knew that.
Enjoy. And maybe when it’s time to harvest our parsley before the first frost, I’ll share my super-secret recipe for parsley pesto.
August 14, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’m telling you, some gardening years are better than others. A string of spectacular harvest sseasons from my small urban plot have made this summer a “meh” – that’s on a scale from “it sucks” to “this is freakin’ amazing.”
My cherry tomatoes—I’m not thrilled with them. They’re growing okay. I just don’t like the fruit. Too big. Too thick-skinned. And the flavor fell flat. Cherries are supposed to poppable, add a brightness to a salad. These? Meh.
When life gives you lemons, right?
So, these cherry tomatoes went straight into sauce. Roasting brings out the sweetness they lack when just sitting on your salad.
Step 1: Put about 2-3 lbs. cherry tomatoes in a cast iron skillet. Add a couple of tablespoons evoo, sprinkle with kosher salt and give it a couple of turns of fresh ground pepper.
Pop it into a 425F oven for about 40 min. or until the tomato skins start bursting and the liquid starts bubbling. Let it bubble along for a total time of about 1 hour.
Step 2: Your gonna get lots of juice from the tomatoes, and you want to let it cook off. And you also want the flavor of the tomatoes come through more and get the sauce a bit thicker. So, take the skillet out of the oven and put it on the stove top over a low flame. Add 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic. Add some herbage; whatever you like. Fresh thyme or basil. Will it top a pizza? Add some chopped fresh oregano. 2Tbs is about right. Taste it for seasoning and add salt/pepper if you need to. And cook loooow and sloooooow. How long? Until enough liquid has cooked out to get the sauce to the thickness you like. In my case, 2 hours.
How easy was that? You might find it still a bit too chunky to spread on a pizza or spoon onto layers of lasagna. Whir it up in a blender or use an immersion blender if you like.
And how sweet is this, uh? You may never go back to plum tomatoes for sauce again.
August 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
Life, sometimes, can get a bit bitter. Thank goodness we have sweets.
Mary Poppins was right about that spoonful of sugar—it helps pretty near everything taste A-okay.
Like my lettuce, for instance. I am still harvesting lettuce from the garden—in mid August! How crazy is that? But, well … it’s up and bolted on me. That’s a gardening term that means that nice compact head of leaf lettuce has sent up a flowering stalk, dragging all those individuals leaves with it. Worse yet, the leaves become bitter.
Now, typically you’d give up the ship at that point. Chuck it to the chickens, maybe. Not Dainty. Waste not, want not. Right? I mean, this’ll be my lunch for the next four days, come on! Keep the bitter stuff!
But I gotta sweeten it up. Maybe a salad dressing …
And then I remember a vinaigrette Giada DeLaurentis made on the Today Show two years ago. Lemon dressing with sweetness brought to you by agave nectar. Pretty darned good, I have to say.
Open hydrator drawers in fridge. No lemon. But there’s a big plump lime?
3 Tbs lime juice
3 Tbs evoo
1.5 Tbs agave nectar
Combine. Shake. Season if you want, or just sprinkle a light dusting of salt and pepper over your salad.
Hits the sweet spot without the sugar.
August 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
I love me some beets. Love love love.
I know beet love is not a universal thing. I don’t belittle that. There are reasons to not like them. Sometimes there’s a metallic dirt after-taste. They can stain your hands—and cutting boards and dish towels—like you just murdered someone and stored them in the freezer. Then there’s that whole … nah, I’m not gonna go there.
My first beet love was a dish an old roommate would make in summer. Fresh, julienned beets with minced garlic, evoo and balsamic. Had a real nice crunch. Tasty, but only if you’re not dating someone.
Jennifer has an awesome beet soup – that’s my second beet love. It has the kitchen sink in it, too. I don’t want to hold out on you, but when the next beet harvest comes along, it’ll go up on Dainty. That okay?
My daily beet love goes out to the roasted variety. Simple. Delicious. And really quite beautiful.
New to Dainty!
Yeah for new! I’m including growing instructions. Yup, that’s what I said. This urban farmer is going to show that you—yes, you, city kid!— can take some seeds, grow them, and put them on your tasty table.
What you’ll need: Beet seeds. A patch of soil/dirt, or a big, wide, deep container. Some way to water them.
Step 1: Beets can take cool weather. And hot weather, too. Another reason to love them. Get out in the garden early in spring—Aprilish for New England peeps—to sow your seeds. OR, start some seeds in early- to mid-August (ahem, NOW!).
Step 2: Beets’ big bulbousness develops underground, in case you didn’t know. It helps if your soil (I never called it dirt, but you know what I mean) isn’t rock hard. Is your soil like cement? Then go to the DIY store and buy a bag of “garden soil,” spread it on top of your “dirt,” and dig it in with a shovel or hoe. Sounds like work … it is! Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long.
Step 3: Beet seeds. Never beet “seedlings” because root vegetables (like beets and carrots) don’t like to be moved once they begin to grow. So, get yourself some. There’s all different types. Choose whichever tickles your tastebuds.
Step 4: Sow the seeds according to the seed packet instructions. Here’s a tip: Plant them in several rows maybe 6 in. apart and in a chess board-type pattern. You can squeeze more in the space that way.
Step 5: Water the seeds in … gently. And keep the soil moist as they germinate.
Step 6: Now, you’re going to wait weeks and weeks … watering and even fertilizing with an all-purpose fertilizer (go to the store and ask for it – you’ll get something good). Your seedlings may be too close together. And when that happens, the beets under the ground kind of grow into each other. It’s ok to sacrifice some of the smaller seedlings. If one seedling is too close to another, just pull it up and discard.
Just a warning: If you spot something on your beet leaves that look like random squiggly lines, you’ve got a pest called Leafminer. These little guys tunnel between the top and bottom of the leaf surface. Crazy! They are the bane of my spring garden—because they also love spinach and chard. If you spot a leaf with these markings, remove it … from the entire garden! Put it in the trash. Do not compost. You want these suckers dead and gone far away. You’ll eat those beet tops later … or the chard or the spinach. You don’t want these guys getting to it first, do you? If you are so inclined, look along the squiggly line and you just might be able to spot the white-ish larva. It’s really gross. Okay, on second thought, don’t look.
Step 7: As your beets get bigger—yay, how awesome is that?!—they may push themselves a bit above ground. Just lightly cover with some surrounding soil to keep the beet covered. Don’t want it to get sunburned, right?
Step 8: Harvest! Pull those beets up whenever you want. You can get a good idea of the size by taking your finger and going around the top of the beet under the soil. After a few months you’ll have small beets that will be good for pickling. Three months, and you’ll get a decent beet—the size you’ll see at a market. Don’t go for massive. No one needs massive beets.
Step 9: Time to roast!
- beets, 3-4
- olive oil
- course salt, pepper
-Set oven to 425F. Cut off a 1 ft. length of aluminum foil, place in a cast iron pan.
-Wash beets. Cut off tops just above beet. Reserve beet tops for … well, you can saute them for pasta or as a side dish …
-Arrange beets on the foil. Glug olive oil on top of each beet – don’t need a whole lot. Sprinkle with salt and a turn of pepper. Fold foil around the beets so they are snug in the packet. You’ll want the moisture to stay inside.
-Slide into the oven. Cook 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. When are they done? When you can just insert a paring knife deep into its heart.
-When the knife slides in, remove the pan. Let cool until the beets can be handled. Actually, just wait until they are room temp. The skins of beet will be soooo much easier to remove when they are completely cool. And then just rub off the skins! For a cool visual, you can keep the short tops on the beet and rub the rest of the skin away if you want.
What to do next? Store in sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Cube or slice and eat with salads. Goat cheese is in love with beets, too, so be sure to pair them whenever you can.
August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
You can’t cook. I mean, you just can’t cook.
It’s 105F in the shade. It’s hot. The thought of lighting that pilot light and having a controlled fire on your stove top makes you break out in hives.
Or you’re in my friend Katherine’s position and don’t currently have a working kitchen due to home remodeling. Home “modeling,” I should say; her condo is so brand-spanking new, there are no appliances yet. But wait. She has an electric wok and maybe a microwave. Thank god, that’s something. She does dishes in her shower, I hear.
So, Katherine, this recipe is for you and all those other folks who can only make a meal the pre-discovery of fire way. Yes, it calls for you to eat corn and zucchini in their raw states. But it’s surprisingly good, and refreshingly cool.
Zucchini and Corn Salad (adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe)
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced or matchsticked
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
-Remove kernels from corn cob. Martha had a great suggestion: Cut off the cob ends, and stand cob up in a shallow dish. Take a sharp knife and, starting from about the middle of the cob, slice off the kernels in a downward motion, working your way around the cob. Don’t slice off too much of the cob – you want just the nice milky kernel. Flip the cob over and do the other half.
-Recipe calls for two medium zucchini. Not sure about you but my zucchini in the garden this time of year only come in the “extra large” size. I’d say you’re looking for 2-3 cups of zucchini, sliced thinly. Or, make matchsticks: I slice 1/4-in. thick rounds of zucchini and then run them down the large, single-slice side of my stand-up grater. Okay, it’s not the small, square-sided wooden matchsticks; more like the slim matches in those paper booklets. But matchsticks, nonetheless. Add the zucchini to the corn in that small shallow bowl.
-Add lime juice, evoo, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Letting it sit for about an hour before serving lets the flavors develop. Pop it in the fridge if you’d like for a nice crunchiness.
July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Remember that haul of produce I brought home from my city community garden plot? All of it—the lettuce, the chard, the beets, the tomatoes and whatever else I gathered—is washed/bagged/roasted/drying/sitting in a hydrator.
Are you interested in how I saved the lettuce/chard/etc? There’s a way to do it. I can tell you about that later if you want …
-Lettuce from the garden.
-A half of a beet from the garden, roasted.
-Cherry tomatoes from the garden.
-A half of a zucchini from the garden, roasted.
–Greek Salad Dressing, made with oregano from the garden.
-Boiled eggs, from our backyard hens (Oh, please. Who do I think I am? Jayme Jenkins?).
–Pickled red onions, pickled myself!
-Green lentils and bulgur – okay, I didn’t grow them but at least I boiled them myself.
-A slice of bread I made using my wild yeast sourdough starter.
I’m full. I need a nap.