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Showing posts from August, 2009

Pickles Pt. 2: Brined Fermented Pickles

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Homemade dill pickles!

Anyone for brined fermented pickles? Sounds dreadful, but this is the superior pickle form. When pickles are allowed to sit in salty water for anywhere between a week to a few months a snappy and tart pickle emerges. I wrote this in the previous pickle entry: osmosis draws out the liquids, hardens pectins, and keeps the vegetable crunchy. Lactic acids develop and increases the acidity, preserving the pickles and making them tangy. These are the kind of pickles you find in delis or in giant barrels. They can be further preserved by canning. Canning processes cooks the cucumber, leaving it weaker and aged. Fresh pickles are strong, healthy, raw, and almost still alive. As long as they are covered in their salty fluids and kept cool these pickles will be okay for a long time.

The biggest trick is to get the brine right, it can make a pickle way to salty or bitter. Its possible to preserve your pickles in really salty solution, and then to de-salinate them by soaking …

Pickles Pt. 1: Watermelon Rind Pickles

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It was watermelon, now its a pickle!

I'm learning a thing or two about pickles. There are 2 methods for getting to a pickled state. Both forms are a template for billions of varieties with added herbs, spices, juices, and flavors. The first is to increase the acidity by using vinegar, as a preservatives. Examples are pickled onions, refrigerator pickles, and the Southern classic included here, pickled watermelon rinds.

The second is to actually ferment the food submerged in a bath of room temp. salt water to create lactic acids. Osmosis draws out the liquids, hardens pectins, and keeps the vegetable crunchy. Lactic acids develop and increases the acidity, preserving the pickles. You can learn a whole lot about fermenting here: www.wildfermentation.com

Watermelon Pickles are a southern staple and an example of the first kind of pickles. This is a pretty easy recipe, and a great way to use up summer's leftover watermelon rind. I have read that this recipe dates back to the depressi…

Drink the Heat, It's Still August

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Avoid the oven dial. Try to keep it stove top, grilled, or fresh from the market. August is not a time to pump out hot meals. Fruit, salads, and sandwiches are your allies, but cool drinks are your true friends.

I wanted to make good out of the .8 lbs of jalapeno peppers from my CSA. I plan on roasting and canning some next month. I did slice up 4 peppers for these experimental beverages:

Ava's Jalapeno Infused Vodka

1 750 ml bottle of vodka
(needs not be expensive)
2 jalapeno peppers, quartered length-wise

First off, designate a pair of rubber gloves to wear for all things jalapeno. I spent an evening with pulsing burning hands that don't quit for hours, because I thought I was tough enough to de-seed a pepper with my fingers. Also remember to wash your cutting area well.

If you like it hot, keep the seeds in the jalapenos. If not remove them. I did one pepper with seeds, one without. Next you need to make space in the vodka bottle for the peppers, so drink a few sips, or just pour…

Alton Brown's Kitchen Hacks

Dry herbs in an air popper. Make 12 minute cornish hen in a paninni press. Liquid nitrogen and watermelon sorbet.

More interesting and dangerous ideas to be found Alton Brown's interview on gizmodo.com

Dad's Fig Tree

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A fig, a few weeks before its ready on Dad's tree in Toledo, Ohio.

Figs are the tender watery essence of sugar and sunshine. This mid to end of summer produce has a drippy kitten soft texture with a mellow honey flavor. In New York City upscale delis often carry the fresh black mission variety. Look for figs that are plump, soft to the touch and and dark. A small amount of figgy syrup often collects on the bottom of such gift-like packages. Figs with a little bit of mold are usually as ripe as they get (okay to eat after you cut out the mold) but will not last longer than a day.

Walking around the boroughs I have often see the green fig trees (pink in the center) growing in yards, especially in the predominately Greek neighborhood of Astoria. The broad shapely leaves bring me back to my adolescence in Ohio. The fig also brings my father back to his childhood growing up in Beirut, Lebanon. He tells of fig trees growing on city streets. In 1993 he purchased an Italian honey fig for ou…

Thruston's Ginger Beer

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Ginger beer in the making, but peel your ginger first.

I needed a recipe for ginger beer. I gave up on finding a recipe online. Most of the recipes I found called to make a simple syrup with ginger. In my heart I know that couldn't be right. Then came my Jamaican-Guyanese friend Thurston. We met on the ferry ride home from the beach, and he let me in on Caribbean home brewed techniques and secrets.

Thurston's Ginger Beer

2 quarts water (1/2 cup reserved)
1 large ginger root peeled
(Thurston indicated that the piece be the size of a man's 4 fingers and palm)
1/2 cup rice
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup turbinado or raw sugar
1 quart seltzer water
ice
lemon slices to garnish

Heat all but 1/2 cup of the water over high heat in a pot. Meanwhile puree the ginger in a Cuisinart, or a blender until smooth. Place the ginger puree, rice, and salt in a tall glass pitcher or jar with a good lid. Add the water when hot, but not boiling to the pitcher and stir. I like to put the lid of my jar on and shake. C…

CSA Week 10 -- Working

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Moments before distribution begins, the farmer
and volunteer team review lists while CSA
members begin to arrive.

Week 10 of Ditmas Park CSA was my week to work distributing the weekly share of vegetables and fruit (weeee! fruit), so finally some pics of the process.

When I tell people how I get my food it is usually in a few steps. I tell them my food comes from a community sponsored agriculture group which I am a member, that it picks up one day a week, in the same spot in Ditmas Park, that the food is determined by my farm, and that it is local and mostly organic. This is a big peach of a mouthful, and I am not sure people can visualize all these details. After all, most people get to choose what they eat when they eat from a grocery store.

Meet Jorge, my farmer, and his home-grown eggplant friend!

I was assigned the early shift. I don't remember feeling hot, but it was in the upper 80's with a ton of humidity. I meet up with the other 2 volunteers, and one administrator in front…

Opulent Orange Ribs

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Dang good messy beach food.

My weekend at Fire Island was heading towards fancy, getting closer to crazy, turned right at decadent, and went straight and beyond opulence. Friday night I joined my friends to prep grilled goods for 40+ guests including chicken, steak, shrimp, & veggie kabobs, clams & mussels, corn, potatoes, scallops wrapped in bacon, sliders, watermelon margaritas, beer can chicken, and luscious ribs that fit the fall of the bone stereotype. I was intimated when my host Ray pointed at 2 - 30" long sacks of meat, asking for help. I read pork, and thought, okay brine, oven, grill forget that its for a ton of people. When my shot at the oven came (6 am the next day) a sleepy veteran rib restaurateur told me to boil instead of bake. Ray's mom's advice agreed. Boil I did. We had 4 racks of perfect unforgettable ribs that the crowd went wild for all out of beachy half-minded opulence and an off-the cuff recipe.

Opulent Orange Ribs

2 gallons cold water
1 cup …

CSA Week #8

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Usually I bag my veggies, but I needed a box this week.

My computer is back, the blog is back, and while I was away I cooked up a salty sultry summer set of recipes for a weekend at Fire Island and my birthday. Coming soon: Opulent ribs, ginger beer, pretzel and peanut chocolate chip cookies, pickles, pickles, pickles, cookies with a pound of chocolate, my newest hummous, olive tapanade, red slaw, watermelon lemonade, and oh my so many more. Makes my stomach full to remember about it all.

The most important summer event is still my CSA pick-up every other week. Last week brought eggplants and melon for the first time. Cantaloupe for Cantaloupe Alone! No recipes there, I'm just having it for breakfast. Total haul:

Tomatoes: beefsteak and roman
Yellow wax beans
A gigantic head of red cabbage
Green peppers
Leeks
Cucumbers
Parsley
Corn on the cob
Yellow Potatoes
Cantaloupe

Playing with Your Food

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I'm dying to update, but I'm only able to sneak these updates on breaks. I can't even type out my thoughts. Its a ludite life pointed towards the kitchen. Without a computer I'm left with lots of down-non-screen time. I've been baking and cooking like mad at home for a trip to Fire Island, and my birthday picnic next week. Not to mention all the little things coming together with clients and work.

Onion Rings, get it?!

Such as my special edition Juggling Shirt may be purchased at Dubé. Fun for jugglers or a hamburger lover. Not fun for vegetarians, or so predicts my vegetarian client. Its called Playing with Food.