Monday, May 26, 2014

Pickled Cauliflower and Red Pepper

Now that the Green City Market has opened my thoughts are turning to summer's bounty.  My infatuation with pickling has awakened and I am eager to get started, and this summer I hope to add a little canning to the mix.  I bought a large canning pot, the ring stand, and tongs last summer but could never quite commit to taking the plunge.  So a friend and I have made the commitment to do it this year.  Sometimes it helps to have someone to whom one is accountable to make sure one does the things one wishes to do.  At least that is my dear hope.

In the meantime, I thought I would post this easier recipe I adapted from the September 2006 issue of Gourmet (RIP) magazine.  To be honest, the main adapting I did was to significantly reduce the number of vegetables I used.  I think I am going to be a "less is more" kind of pickler.  I like to have just two or three different vegetables pickled together.  Of course that may change over time, but for now it seems to be my pattern.

Since pickling the cauliflower and red pepper in the photo above, I have added garlic and beets to the mix.  Red beets turn everything a lovely shade of pink; golden beets add a mellower golden tone to everything.  I highly recommend either, or both.

If you are new to pickling, this recipe is foolproof and the results are delicious.  The only pickling ingredient you may not already have is the mustard seeds, and you should be able to find them at any grocery store.So what are you waiting for?  Let's get pickling!
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes:
2-1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
3 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

In a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the first 6 ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a large glass mixing bowl and let cool at least half an hour.

Prepare a large bowl with ice and cold water and set aside. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender but still crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Cook the red peppers the same way and add them to the ice water bath.

Add the cauliflower and the peppers to the pickling liquid. Weigh them down with a plate to keep them submerged, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 day before eating.

adapted from Gourmet Magazine, September 2006

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Pork Chops with Black Sour Cherry Beer

I was recently gifted with a home-brewed bottle of sour black cherry beer.  I am not a big beer drinker, but I do enjoy the occasional bottle of ice cold Shiner Bock or Tecate con lima.  So when my friend and her husband started brewing beer, I was clinically interested and somewhat curious about it and could totally relate to her enjoyment of it, given my own obsession with home-made anything, but I could understand why she did not feel a pressing need to present me with any samples of her efforts.

So I was quite thrilled when she mentioned to me the last time we were planning to get together that she and some friends had made a brew she was pretty sure I would like and would bring me a bottle.  I was super pleased, since I have been wanting to taste what she's been making for a while.  I brought it home and put it in the refrigerator and thought about what I wanted to do with it.  Aside from drinking it, of course.

It had a lovely dark brown tone and I decided the sour cherry would best be complemented by meat.  Pork always goes well with fruit and a had some shoulder chops in the freezer so I defrosted them and braised them in a little bit of the beer.  The result was a dark, tangy luscious sauce with just a hint of the cherry that added a sweet tone without being sweet.  It was even better than the chops I braised in the Shiner Bock which I absolutely love.

The rest of the beer I drank with dinner.  It was crisp and smooth with the deep tang of the black cherries.  It was a winner for sure.  I hope she will make more of it!

You can find the recipe for braising pork chops in beer here.  Just use whatever brand you have on hand, and enjoy.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I have gotten into the habit of buying broccoli in large quantities, as it has been abundant and inexpensive at my neighborhood Treasure Island.  I usually prep and blanch it as soon as I get it home so it is handy to grab a handful for snacking, or to throw some into a dish.  Because I never know exactly how I am going to use it, I usually cook it for a scant 3 to 4 minutes, so it is cooked just enough to eat out of hand but is still crisp enough to withstand being cooked more if I'm adding it to something on the stove or in the oven.

Every once in while, however, something comes up and I leave it on the stove for a little longer than I had planned and it overcooks.  That is what happened here, with some beautiful florets for which I had big plans.  But I got called away from the kitchen and by the time I got back and drained them, I basically had a bowl full of mush on my hands.

What to do?  Why not puree them all the way and make Cream of Broccoli soup?  It took just a few minutes and I must say that it tasted much much better than it should have!  I did not have cream so I added half a cup of coconut milk instead, and that gave it a well-rounded, full-bodied taste and texture.  Toasted walnuts were the perfect garnish - their woodsy flavor was the perfect complement to the almost grass-like flavor of the broccoli.  A dribble of walnut oil was the perfect finish.

The next time I make this, it won't be because I accidentally overcooked my broccoli.  I will have done it on purpose.  This would make a lovely starter for a holiday or company meal, but it is also substantial enough to make a meal in itself with a nice hunk of crusty bread.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
6 to 8 servings
1 to 2 pounds broccoli florets, blanched
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, diced (or 1 small onion)
2 cups vegetable broth (plus water, if needed)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped, for garnish (opt)
walnut oil for garnish (opt)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallot (or onion) and cook until it has softened, about 5 minutes. Do not brown.

Add the blanched broccoli florets and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until they have heated through. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the broccoli and onions are tender.

Puree the broccoli and shallots (either with a stick blender, a blender, or a food processor) until very smooth. Add the coconut milk and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Add water if necessary to reach the desired consistency.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of walnut oil.


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Monday, May 05, 2014


I've had so much success with breads, crackers and flatbreads lately that I thought it was time to try my hand at home-made corn tortillas.  I needed masa harina for that and the only place in my neighborhood I could find it had it in a 5-pound package only.  It was much more than I needed for one little batch, but I really wanted to make them and I was too impatient to go to a neighborhood where I had a better chance of finding broader, smaller options.  So I lugged the 5-pound bag home with me and measured out a measly little cup for my first batch of tortillas.

And they were good.  Fine.  They weren't great, but they weren't awful.  But I don't eat them very often and I still had almost a full package of the masa in the house.  I needed to find something else to do with it.

I found it in a recipe I had pulled from the May/June 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times.  As I've mentioned before, I have not had the best luck with their recipes, but for some reason I keep trying.

And I'm glad I did.  These came out soft, moist, and full of that toasty corn goodness.

The first time I made them I threw together a quick picadillo using some ground beef I had in the freezer, topped with a dollop of yogurt (I would have used sour cream if I'd had any around but the yogurt worked just fine) and some chopped pickled jalapenos given to me by a co-worker made from peppers in his garden.

They were tasty enough that I immediately made a batch of Ten-Minute Black Beans with Tomatoes and Cilantro and whipped up another batch.  They are somewhat time consuming, but well worth the effort.

These make a great snack, appetizer or main meal.  The possibilities are endless.

And they even traveled well to work for weekday lunches.
Home Cookin Chapter:  Breads and Muffins
makes 12 small or 6 large sopes

3 cups masa harina
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (opt)
2-1/2 cups hot water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 cup grated cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese (or any good melting cheese)

Preheat oven to 350°F. and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Combine the masa harina, baking powder, salt and cheese if using in a large bowl and mix well.  Stir in the hot water until the mixture forms a soft dough. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Add the egg and mix it in completely, then add the oil and stir it in completely as well.

Divide the dough into 12 1/4-cup or 6 1/2-cup pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and then press into a 3- or 6- inch disk on the prepared baking sheet.  Make an indentation in the center of the disk using a small drinking glass or your fingers, then shape a 1/2-inch edge around the circle.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the sopes start to look dry. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cheese, equally divided, into the center of each circle. Return to oven to the oven and bake until cheese has melted, about 5 more minutes.

Remove from the oven, fill with your topping of choice and serve.

from Vegetarian Times May/June 2009

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