One nice thing about subscribing to a CSA is the chance to try things I might not otherwise. I’ve been trying to expand that philosophy to my grocery store purchases as well. I’ve often seen tomatillos at the store, of course. And though I think I used them once in something, I can’t recall with any certainty. That’s how impressive it must have been.
Not to be deterred, and again inspired by Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces from the author of Food in Jars, I decided to give them another try.
Tomatillos (often called tomate verde–green tomato in Mexico) are part of the nightshade family. The husks can range from green to brown. Inside, the sticky green tomatillo can range in size from a cherry tomato to a small apricot. The smaller ones tend to be sweeter. When picking out tomatillos, make sure the husks are not dry and shriveled, and the tomatillo should be firm.
I mention Preserving by the Pint. She includes a recipe for Smooth Tomatillo Simmer Sauce. Although she acknowledges it can be used as a salsa, her primary use is as a simmering sauce with chicken thighs. I’ve no doubt that would be tasty, but I was definitely thinking salsa. And as I looked over her recipe, changes immediately came to mind. So off I went.
Make sure to husk and wash the tomatillos. All they need is a rough chop. Add onion, garlic cloves, and the rest of the ingredients. The recipe calls for chili flakes, and I added them. But I wanted more pepper. So I added 2 small Anaheim peppers, seeded and deveined. I really wanted to use jalapenos but didn’t have any. So I followed my philosophy of using what was on hand–or ready in the garden.
The recipe also called for ground cumin. Ordinarily, I would have taken whole cumin seeds and ground them. But the mixture has to cook for about 20 minutes, so the cumin seed softens. And then the whole thing takes a trip in the blender or food processor. Of course you can use ground cumin, but I strongly urge using whole seed.
To enhance the smokey flavor cumin brings to the salsa, I added some smoked paprika. Most stores now carry it.
After the mixture reduces to about half, you need to make a decision. If you like the consistency, you’re done. Though I’d roughly chopped the veggies and they had broken down in the reducing process, I wanted it a bit smoother. So I ran it in the food processor until I was happy. I put it in a jar and let it sit on the counter for a day before eating.
Yum. The only change I might make next time is add more peppers to it. Or perhaps leave some of the seeds in the Anaheims.
I haven’t tried it with chips yet, but I have put it on sandwiches, and it was great. I also added it to a pan sauce I made for steak, and it beat any commercial steak sauce I ever had. Well so far, at least.
Give tomatillos a try. Here’s the recipe for my Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde). Please note the program I usually use for recipes is not working. I apologize and hope they get their act together soon.
The simple fact of the matter is that I eat a lot of the same things. Often cooked in the same way. Yes, you could say I can get in a rut. But for the past year or so, I’ve been trying to change up my dishes by using different herbs and spices. Fortunately, last year and this, the herbs I’ve planted in my garden have done fabulously. This year I’m growing Genovise basil, dill, rosemary, pineapple sage, regular sage, oregano, and thyme. And though my thyme is not doing as well this year as last, it’s still giving me a ready supply. I love walking past my garden and smelling these spices in their glory.
Although overall a good thing, my abundance of fresh herbs is not without a problem: how to save them. Of course I dehydrate some of them. I much prefer growing my own and drying than to buy dried in the store. Many people freeze them in water-filled ice cube trays and then pop them out and store in a freezer bag. Others do the same thing but in olive oil. Now I have no doubt that works and for most people a good idea. But ice cubes are a food group to me–or at least a necessity, so I don’t relish (Hee hee! Food reference.) the idea of having even one tray out of commission. Yeh, I know. Priorities. I’m also not keen on freezing in olive oil. What if I don’t want even a hint of olive oil in my final dish? And besides, freezer space is really limited. So what to do?
Enter Marisa McClellan. I have been a fan of hers since Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. So when I learned she was publishing another book, I couldn’t wait to preorder. Since it arrived several months ago, I’ve been waiting for things to get ready in my garden.
Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces from the author of Food in Jars continues McClellan’s quest to encourage those of us who don’t need to preserve large amounts of food that it is still a worthwhile activity. The recipes are categorized by season, so you can use produce at its freshest. And even if you’ve never canned–and you don’t have to can; things can be refrigerated–before, you’ll find her techniques easy to understand and follow.
Since my most immediate interest was in preserving some herbs, I turned to her recipe for Salt-Preserved Herbs. Easy enough: herbs and coarse sea salt. Both I have. Her instructions are for 8 ounces (230 grams) of fresh herbs. She suggests parsley, cilantro, basil, chervil, sorrel, and the leafy parts of celery. (How many times have I told you to use that part of the celery!) When selecting herbs to preserve together, make sure to select ones you like using together. I combined thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Those I can use in different ethnic cuisines. Basil and sage I use a lot, but I decided to leave them out of this mixture. This increases the versatility of the mixture.
Wash and dry the herbs and then stem. When it comes to mincing, a rocking pizza cutter does a fine job and makes what could seem like a unitasker into a multitasker. A knife or chopper works, too, of course. Just don’t do them in a food processor. You’ll likely end up with mush.
Mix together the herbs and salt. According to the original recipe, her salt measures 75 percent of the herbs’ weight. So I did the math. Put them in a jar, put a lid on it, and stick it in the fridge.
All that’s left to do is shake the jar every day. Well, and wait. After a week, or when the herb and salt volume is half what it was, transfer to a clean, airtight jar. This keeps a long time in the fridge.
I’m still in the waiting stage. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
A few days ago, July 12 to be exact, I was searching the Internet for ways to ferment daikon. My local grocery store rarely has it, and when it does, I try to grab one. I knew I wanted to make a fermented pickle. And if I could find one that includes carrots, all the better.
I quickly came upon this recipe for banh mi pickles. (Gotta love Phickle!) For those who don’t know, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich featuring a variety of meats (including seasoned pork). It’s topped with a carrot and daikon slaw made with vinegar. I was thrilled that Phickle had come up with a pickled version through fermenting!
You cannot get much easier than this recipe. Seriously. Even if you’ve never fermented a pickle, you can do this recipe. Take her advice, though, and check the FAQ on fermenting if you’re brand new. You’re going to need a fermenting vessel, knife or other cutting tool, carrots, daikon, salt, and filtered water.
For my fermenting vessel, I used the airlock system and a pint canning jar. I probably would have used a fido, but the one I wanted was otherwise occupied. A jar and airlock work just fine.
As for cutting, she recommends a mandoline. You can also cut them with a julienne blade and a food processor. Some box graters (such as the Combi Chef) have a larger julienne that would probably also work well. I have all those things. I used a knife. Whatever method you use, try to be as consistent in size as possible.
I assume you can cut the carrots and daikon into coins if you’d rather. The julienne shape is traditional and fits well on sandwich rolls.
After you peel and cut the carrots and daikon, put them in a bowl, add the salt, and toss. You’re waiting for them to begin releasing their natural liquids. Because I was only making a pint (the recipe is for a quart), I only added a bit over 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt. Let your taste buds be your guide.
it didn’t take long for the veggies to start giving up their liquidy goodness. I did massage them a bit, but they released enough liquid I didn’t need to add brine. Then my impeccably clean hands packed them into an impeccably clean jar. The recipe called for an optional halved jalapeno. I opted for red pepper flakes, which I added with the veggies. I kept some of the larger ends of the daikon and used them to weigh down the carrots and daikon so they would stay below the brine. I put on the airlock and then came the hard part. Waiting.
But it was certainly worth the wait. Phickle suggests about a week. But it has been so hot in my kitchen, I started tasting at about 3 days. Still not quite right. But when I tried them again last night, they were perfect. Seriously perfect. The daikon as softened a bit, but it isn’t mushy. The carrots have softened less, but there is still a toothiness that adds texture to the mixture. And there’s just enough acidity and heat to be interesting—and pickly.
Whether I eat them on a sandwich, in a salad, with cheese, or on their own, these pickles are going to be a staple in my pickle-making repertoire.
I have really enjoyed the items in my first few CSA boxes. The kohlrabi have encouraged me to expand my repertoire beyond soup. In fact, I started a kohlrabi and onion sauerkraut on Sunday. But that’s a topic for another post.
I’ve received a lot of turnips in my early boxes. The smaller, sweeter ones are great raw, especially in salads. But in truth, I’m not a big fan of turnips. Cooked or raw. But I don’t want to let them go to waste, to I did the logical thing. I turned them into chips and flakes.
Why do that? Like I said, I don’t want to waste them. And turnip chips make a great, healthy snack. As for the flakes, I can add them to soup. I can even add them to salads as a kind of crunchy topping. And if you or someone you cook for doesn’t like turnips, especially their texture, you can sneak them into dishes.
Whether making flakes or chips, you begin the same way. Peel and thinly slice the turnips. Now you can do this by hand, but my knife skills generally don’t allow for a consistent thickness. That is why I have “helpers,” in this case, a box grater/julienner/slicer. Slice to between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thickness.
To maintain their whiteness, blanch the turnip slices for 3-5 minutes. (Mine may have blanched longer; I was distracted.) Drain well.
Place the slices in a single layer on your dehydrator trays. I prefer to dehydrate at a lower temperature. I set it at 100 degrees and let it run overnight. When I got up the next morning, the turnip chips were perfect.
I held some out for snacking and used my spice grinder (i.e., formerly a coffee grinder) to turn the rest into turnip flakes. You could turn them into powder, but I wanted a flake, so I didn’t let the grinder run as long. Think of onion flakes; my turnip flakes are about that size.
Now I can have turnip flavor at will. And it does my heart good not to let the turnips go to waste.
I’ve been lucky to have some good-looking beets in my CSA boxes lately. I’ve loved beets for as long as I can remember. As a child, they usually came in cans, and to be honest, I could sit and eat all of them straight from the can. We were fortunate to have homegrown beets from time to time (though not necessarily grown at our home). Mom always made sure to can some to cook with butter later (my favorite way). And she always pickled some.
It’s now my turn to decide what to do with beets. I wanted to do something other than cook the ones in my CSA box. I’d never tried fermented beets and didn’t know if I’d like them raw. But if you never try something, you’ll never know.
Now if I was going to try something different to me, it seemed to make sense to try something different in the prep. Last year I bought a Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer but never used it. This seemed like the right time. There are many versions of vegetable cutters at many price points.
The first step is to clean and peel the beets. (If your beets came with their leafy tops, don’t toss them. They are great lightly steamed or sauteed.) You can slice them, chop them, spiralize them, or if small, leave them whole. Put them in a clean jar. I had 4 or 5 medium to large beets, and they fit in a quart jar. I added 1/2 tablespoon of pickling spices. You can add more or less, to your taste. Then cover with a basic brine (19 grams sea salt to quart of water). I held back some of the beets as slices and used them to help hold the beets under the brine. Now I used a Fido, and supposedly keeping the food under the brine isn’t necessary. But I tend to err on the side of caution. Cover and set aside to let Mother Nature do her work. Be sure to burp your jar if you’re not using an airlock.
I let mine ferment for just over a week. It is pretty hot in my apartment, so things tend to ferment quickly. Taste after a few days. Let your taste buds be your guide to when it’s done. Mine were to my liking after about 10 days.
If I can get more beets, I’m going to make them again. I may parboil some to see what difference that makes in taste and texture. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy these.
For many years now, I’ve had a garden and supported farmers’ markets. One thing I wanted to do was join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. This year I was finally able to do so, and the first 2 boxes have made me very happy.
One of my favorite things about it is the opportunity to try vegetables I might not have given a chance otherwise. One of my favorite vegetables is kohlrabi. While I often pick up a green one at the store, there was a purple one in last week’s box. Okay, it’s probably white inside, like the green ones; I’ve not used it yet. But in the meantime, it’s purple. And to me, that’s a good thing.
Do you know what it is? Yep, it’s celeriac, commonly called celery root. Remember Homer’s Odyssey? It’s called selinon in it. It’s related to celery, but instead of eating the stalks, you eat the root. You can eat the stalks from the celery root, but most I have seen are sold stalkless.
Now I admit this is not the most attractive vegetable in the vegetable bin. It is kind of “warty,” after all. But like people, we need to look beyond the outside. There is absolutely nothing to fear from this possibly underappreciated vegetable.
Just looking at it, you’ve probably figured out you don’t eat the outside. But how hard is it to get to the good stuff inside? As hard as peeling a potato. The outside comes off easily with a sharp knife. As you cut it away and expose the white flesh, you can catch the subtle smell of celery.
Now that you have a peeled celeriac, what do you do with it? First, note it will discolor after cutting, so give it a quick bath in water with a little vinegar or lemon juice, or rub the cut side with lemon. Some people use it almost as a potato replacement. Pureed or boiled and mashed, it can take the place of mashed potatoes. Others cut it into slivers and add it raw to slaws and salads. It can also be blanched if you prefer a not-quite-so raw flavor. And yes, it can be fried.
I went the soup route. I started with my Roasted Corn and Potato Chowder. But I left out the bacon and roasted red pepper. I also added 3 peeled and chopped carrots. Instead of half and half, I used whole milk; it’s what I had. I softened the onion in a tablespoon of butter and added the peeled and roughly chopped the celeriac with the carrots and stock. And because I seem to like thyme in everything, I added some of that, too.
The result is a very tasty soup. There’s only a slight taste of the celeriac, so if you’re new to the veggie or have less-than-adventurous eaters when it comes to trying new things, this might be the way to go.
I had the leftover chowder for dinner last night. But to change it up, I added some steamed broccoli and a dash–or several dashes–of my Hottish Sauce. More yum.
I encourage you to look beyond the warts and give celeriac a try. You’ll have more options to your vegetable repertoire.
Maya Angelou died recently. I was familiar with her writings, of course, and I’d seen her interviewed many times. But after her death, as is often the case, I learned much more. Most significant to me, she loved to cook. She even worked as a cook and a waitress. And Maya is the author of two cookbooks, Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart and Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes. I belong to the Cookbook Junkies group on Facebook. After reading people’s opinions about these books, I ordered both. I immediately fell in love with Hallelujah! In it she shares great recipes and some of the stories surrounding the dishes.
Those of us on Cookbook Junkies decided to celebrate Maya’s life and love of food with a special dinner, Sunday Supper with Maya. We each decided to cook at least one of the dishes from her cookbooks. I chose her Braised Short Ribs of Beef from Hallelujah!. This was a dish she made as a cook at The Creole Cafe.
Like Maya, beef short ribs have a spot in my memory. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. My dad had a full-time job and worked several odd jobs to support his family. Even then, just before payday, money was often tight. Many times Mom turned to short ribs to help stretch the food budget. They were readily available and inexpensive. She usually braised them with potatoes, something else that was inexpensive, even when we had some fresh from our garden. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I’d had them since I left home.
When I went looking for short ribs, I quickly discovered 2 things. First, they are not nearly as available in my stores as they were in those of my childhood. And second, they have certainly gone up in price. Regardless, I managed to find some, though the quality wasn’t what I hoped.
As I said, Mom usually cooked them with just potatoes. Maya’s recipe called for stock, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes and tomato paste, celery, onions, garlic, and some herbs. It also called for wine, but I didn’t have any, so I just added extra stock. I also added button mushrooms, because I had them on hand. Her dish is also cooked in the oven. I’m sorry, but it’s a gazillion degrees in my kitchen, so I cooked it in a Dutch oven on top of the stove. Brown off the beef and braise in the stock for an hour. Add the remaining ingredients and cook 1 1/2 hours more.
Let me warn you about something if you make this dish. Your house will smell remarkable. They’ve been painting our hallway, and the smell kept sneaking in. The smell of these ribs knocked it out–in a good way.
This dish was as good as I anticipated. The short ribs almost melted in my mouth. You can serve it with or on top of rice, polenta, quinoa, or mashed potatoes. I opted for some greens as a side dish.
As good as it was, the memory of the short ribs of my childhood made me smile. A lot. I know Mom thought of them almost as desperate measures for a dwindling budget, but I think of them now, at least, as a sign of love, of trying to provide a good dinner for her family. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it then, but thanks to Maya, I have a new appreciation of the beef short rib and the woman who first introduced me to them so many years ago.
All right, it’s not what you think. But then again, if you love food and like making your own things from scratch, maybe it is.
I’ve been into making hot sauce and barbecue sauce lately. So much so, in fact, that I’ve planted about 15 types of peppers in my garden this year. Hopefully that’ll keep me stocked in peppers for a while.
I usually have a problem buying hot sauce at the market. When I younger, I could eat super-hot things. The only thing that made me cautious was the knowledge that what goes in must come out. And sometimes that can be painful. As my taste buds aged, I became less tolerant of very hot things (going in or coming out). I’d buy the sauces marked medium or mild, and they were still often too hot for me. And there didn’t seem to be a consistency between what one company called mild/medium and what another one did. Sometimes there was a difference between bottles produced by the same company. It made buying hot sauce a hit-and-miss proposition.
You know where this is going, don’t you. Yep, I started making my own. When I looked for recipes, many of them called for peppers I couldn’t find in my local markets. This was part of the inspiration to plant multiple varieties. So I decided to put one together using peppers I could find in my supermarket. I wanted a mixture of heat and sweet. I also wanted it to be mostly red, but that’s just a personal thing. I needed 3 pounds total of peppers. At the store I found a sale on red bell peppers (yay). So I bought 5 of them, plus 2 green bell peppers. The store had green jalapenos, and I always try to keep those on hand. I also picked up red chile peppers. Lots of them.
As you know, a lot of a pepper’s heat is in the membrane holding the seeds. Since I didn’t want the sauce really hot, I did stem and seed the hot peppers (and the bells of course). I pulsed them in the food processor until very small but not mushy. I moved them to a bowl and added most of the other ingredients (see recipe). Then it came time for fermentation. The peppers and garlic need to be submerged in the liquid. If you have a Pickle-Pro or something like that, it’ll work. You can also use a brine-filled food-safe plastic bag to keep the peppers submerged. Or you can do something different, like I did.
Yep, that’s a French press. I saw it used online and in a cookbook, so my immediate thought was Why not? Just fill the press to about 1/2 inch or so. Carefully (and I emphasize carefully) push the plunger in until liquid covers the pressing plate. To help keep air out, I covered the top with plastic wrap. And having had to clean up more than one fermenting overflow, I put it in a pie plate.All of the recipes I found for hot sauce said to keep it in a dark place. Yeh right. It’s not like I have a lot of space in my cabinets. What I do have are paper lunch bags. So I put one over the press and set it aside for what I planned to be 2 weeks.
Because the kitchen has been so hot, and that speeds fermentation, I started checking after about 10 days. By day 12, it had the flavor I looked for. I strained it into a cheesecloth-lined bowl.
I tied the ends together to make a bag–like when making cheese–and let it drain for about 20 minutes. Then I twisted the bag to make sure I got all the hot sauce goodness out of the bag. I sampled it, and added vinegar and sugar to take a bit of the edge off and to help in preservation.
Speaking of preservation, my aim is for shelf-stable hot sauce, preferably without canning or pasteurization. Unfortunately, most of the recipes I found for hot sauce call for canning or refrigeration. I did finally find a source that said it could be shelf stable if the pH level is below 3.8. When in doubt, stick it in the fridge. It’ll keep for months.
One of my favorite things about Hottish Sauce is that I can make it as hot as I want. This version seems perfect for me. If you want yours hotter, use hotter peppers or keep the seeds in. Keep in mind, though, the idea is to add layers of flavor, not necessarily make something so hot your tongue wants to jump out of your mouth and run screaming to the nearest milk source. When something is that hot, it really doesn’t matter what it’s being served on. You probably won’t taste it.
If you search for hot sauce on the Internet, you’ll often see instructions to cook the peppers. For those trying to eat more raw foods, this is an uncooked sauce.
Here’s my recipe for Hottish Sauce.
You remember my sourdough starter Miss Fisher, don’t you? You first met her in my post “Of Sourdough Starters and Naan.” After a slow start (and a rather cold kitchen), she came into her own. I used her “discards” for naan and pizza dough, both of which were wonderful. Then I made her first loaf of bread, which was quite tasty yet plain.
One thing about Miss Fisher is that she has a mind of her own. And when she wants to grow, well she grows. In preparation for making a loaf of bread, I took out what amounted to about a half cup of starter to place unfed in the fridge for naan. Not long later, I opened the refrigerator and found this.
This is a pint jar, and yes, Miss Fisher–unfed–had climbed to the top. She is one strong dame! Incidentally, I refreshed her the other night, and she relieved herself out of the quart-jar sitting on the counter. Got to love her.
Anyway, I refreshed the rest of the starter to make Olive Rosemary Bread, which I found on Nourish Network . Besides the fact it’s sourdough and includes olives, which I love, it’s no-knead. The recipe on the site also gives the amount for commercial yeast if you don’t have sourdough starter.
The recipe calls for Kalamata olives. I’ve made lots of olive breads before, but I always used regular black olives. This time I decided to go with the Kalamata, roughly chopping them–making sure there were no pits first. The recipe also calls for rosemary. I decided to use my Italian herb blend rather than just rosemary. I also added sunflower seeds. Okay, that may seem like a bit odd. The truth is I intended to add sesame seeds, but I grabbed the wrong bag. Oh well. I did top it with lots of sesame seeds before baking.
The house smelled amazing while it baked. It seriously smelled like an Italian restaurant. Here’s the finished loaf.
The taste is phenomenal. I think it would also be good with black olives, green olives, and a combination of olives. Some Parmesan cheese might not hurt, either. The next time I make it, I’m going to add more of my herb mixture.
I encourage you to give this bread a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Incidentally, I just got some spelt berries. I see a new-to-me flour and starter!
I love lemons. And I love lemonade. But my culinary inquiring mind landed on another way to use lemons. And you can keep them for a long time.
As I searched for Moroccan and Indian recipes, I often saw preserved lemons in the list of ingredients. After seeing them listed a few times, I asked someone in the Facebook Fermenters Kitchen about them. She is a big proponent of making and using preserved lemons. And they’re easy to make. In fact, as I searched for how-tos, I recalled seeing Ina Garten making them with someone on her show.
So what do you need to make preserved lemons? Lemons, salt, and lemon juice. Some recipes call for other additions, but I like to keep it simple to increase options for use. This recipe is easy to follow. Here’s how I did it.
First, get some lemons. Many recipes call for Meyer lemons. My store didn’t have any, so I got regular ones. I did, however, choose to use organic ones. Whatever ones you get, scrub them well.
I added 2 tablespoons of salt to the bottom of a clean quart jar. I found some recipes that called for slicing the lemons. Most, however, called for cutting off the stem (if there) and quartering, but not all the way through.
I spread out the segments and then salted liberally, rubbing it in. I put the lemon in the jar, pressing down with each addition to release as much juice as possible. The lemons need to be kept submerged, so you should hold back a few lemons in case you need extra lemon juice after all the lemons are in the jar.
Cover the jar, and let sit at room temperature for 4 weeks. Someone suggested checking after 3 weeks. I forgot, but 4 weeks were fine for me. You want the rinds to be tender but not mushy.
Once they’ve reached your desired level of preservedness, put them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for months.
So now that you have them, how do you use them. Well first, keep in mind you’re eating the rind, not the pulp and definitely not the seeds. You can eat the pulp, but recipes call for the rind. And you’ve used a lot of salt making these lemons. Be sure to rinse them off well before using. I find I need to reduce the amount of salt in my dishes in which I’m using the lemons.
I love these as snacks. Seriously. They’re great straight from the jar. I also add them to tagines. They are a great complement to the spice blends called for in such recipes. Preserved lemons are also good in soups, especially chicken soup. I’m not kidding. If for some reason I need to use a box stock or my stock doesn’t have the flavor I want it to, I often add a wee bit of lemon juice. A few slivers of preserved lemon rind also does the trick, brightening up the flavor.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to lemons. You can also preserve limes and I’m thinking probably oranges, too.
At first, this may seem a bit “out there.” But it’s not. Preserved lemons are a great way to add punch to dishes.