Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spicy Sweet Relish

We've gone a little crazy buying pickling cucumbers. We've made some refrigerator pickles and I just finished up a batch of relish. I've adapted a sweet relish recipe that I found to make it a little more spicy and thought you guys would like to give it a whirl yourselves.

This recipe assumes you understand the basics of canning. Do not experiment with the quantities as you want to make sure you have the appropriate ratio of sugars to acids.

Spicy Sweet Relish

6 cups diced pickling cucumbers
3 cups diced peppers - you can mix it up with hot, mild or sweet depending on how spicy you want it
3 cups diced sweet onion

1/4 cup kosher salt (or pickling salt)
3 cups sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 T celery seed
1 T mustard seed

Mix the diced cucumbers, peppers and onion with the salt, cover and let sit for two hours to draw out the moisture. Rinse well and drain. In a stainless steel pot, bring the sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed to a boil. Add in the cucumber mixture and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Ladle hot relish into hot canning jars and water bath process for 10 minutes. Makes about 8 half-pint jars.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Indian Masala Strawberry Jam

Triple threatI love Indian Masala Chai tea and I've yammered on about making it before. So, what better way to savor the flavors of Masala but in a strawberry jam? Now, this may sound like a very unorthodox combination, but trust me, the resulting flavors are very subtle and they add just enough complexity to the jam without overpowering the strawberry flavor in any way.

Like the other jam recipes on this blog, start with the standard Ball jam recipe (this makes about 11 8-oz jars), this time for strawberry.

Strawberry Jam
5 cups crushed organic strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Sterilize your jars, lids, etc. I'm not going to go into food safety techniques here - if you want more information, study the instructions that come with your pectin package.

Masala Strawberry Jam
Strawberry jam - 1 batch (see recipe above)
1 cup red wine (Pinot Noir or something similar can be used)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
12 cardamom pods, cut in half
1/4 cup Port wine
additional fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Simmer spices in wine for 20 minutes and strain. This will reduce the wine down to about 1/4 cup. Return to the pot and add in the strawberries, lemon juice and lemon zest. Slowly add the package of pectin. I use a wooden spoon, but you can use any non-reactive implement you like. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat and then add the sugar.

Bring this mess up to a rolling boil, wherein you can't stir down the boiling action and, most likely, are getting bombarded by spattering molten lava strawberry bits. Boil for one full minute. At the end of cooking, add the Port and more fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Ladle into hot jars. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Homemade mascarpone

I don't know about you, but I love foods made with mascarpone, even though I inevitably always mispronounce it. It's that triple-cream cheese that's used in making tiramisu and a whole host of very tasty sweet and savory Italian dishes. You can also serve it with fruit or it can be mixed with cocoa or coffee.

Unfortunately, it's also very expensive to buy, that is, if you can find it in stores. However, luckily for us, it's actually quite easy to make yourself.

Homemade mascarpone

16 ounces (not ultra-pasteurized) organic whipping cream
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the water in the skillet.

Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. It will take about 15 minutes of gentle heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. The whipping cream will become thicker and will cover the back of your spoon thickly.

When the cream reaches temperature, keep it at temperature for 5 minutes, then remove the bowl from the water and let the mixture cool for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve. Once it is cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the sieve overnight or up to 24 hours. Transfer to a sealable storage container. Or your mouth, whichever comes first.

Yield: about 12 oz

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homemade rosolio

I'm reading another book by the same author from whom I got the Asparagi alla Milanese recipe. This one is called, Libation: A Bitter Alchemy and, no surprises here, it's about the origins of different drinks, written in a series of essays.

And wouldn't you know it, before you even hit page 50, there's already a recipe I want to try out using my roses. You see, I've already made rose jam and rose potpourri and I'm hankering to try something new. So, when I ran across the recipe for making rosolio, an Italian liqueur made with rose petals, I knew I wanted to give it a whirl. My brother is the master of making his own lemon liqueur, limoncello, and I've always wanted to try doing it. I've never had rosolio, but it sounds rather tempting and, most importantly, super easy to do. There are other recipes online for making rosolio, but this one sounds way more tasty to me.

Here's the instructions from the book (p. 37):
Pick roses at the hottest point of the day - red roses, for they will impart more color and flavor to the alcohol. (If you do not have your own rose garden, I recommend procuring your roses from a friend or a local grower so that you can be certain that the blooms have not been treated with any chemicals.)

Separate the petals from the flower. Trim the white edge at the base with a knife or scissors. Weigh out 1.75 ounces petals, then steep the petals in a jar of 190 proof (95 percent) pure grain alcohol with a vanilla bean in a large canning jar. Close the jar and set aside in a dark place for two weeks. After two weeks, strain the liquid, removing the rose petals and vanilla bean.

Prepare a simple syrup by dissolving 1 pound sugar and 3.25 cups water. Add the simple syrup to the alcohol, return the mixture to the jar, and store for another two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, filter and bottle. After your first tasting, more simple syrup can be added if desired to cut the hotness of the alcohol and suit your taste.

If you get cracking now, you'll have enough rosolio to give away for holiday gifts this year!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Asparagus with Fried Eggs

I've been busy reading this great book, In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love - Seasonal Recipes and Stories From an Italian Kitchen, and have already run across a couple of fantastic recipes.

Last night I started off making Asparagi alla Milanese and was delighted with the result. I'm usually not a runny fried egg sort of gal, so I cooked them a tad more thoroughly than is probably expected. I also decided to roast the asparagus rather than pan steam them.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Serving: One

2 inch thick bundle of fresh asparagus
2 to 3 teaspoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating up, snap the tough ends off the asparagus, rinse and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt to taste. Roast in oven until cooked but still crisp (about 8 minutes).

In the meantime, heat a skillet on medium-low, adding butter when skillet is hot. Crack eggs into butter and season with salt and pepper. Heat until cooked to your preference.

Place the roasted asparagus on a plate and slide cooked eggs directly on top. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lavender Honey Lemonade

During one of the stops on our trip to the Kitsap Peninsula last weekend, at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse, I had this great Lavender Honey Lemonade. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I found a recipe for lavender lemonade from a local lavender farm and tweaked it to recreate what I had over the weekend:

Lavender Honey Lemonade

1 cup honey
1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender (or 1/4 cup fresh lavender blossoms)
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained
Ice cubes
Lavender sprigs for garnish

Combine honey with 2 1/2 cups water in a medium pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the honey.

Add the lavender to the honey water, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand at least 20 minutes (and up to several hours).

Strain mixture and discard lavender. Pour infusion into a glass pitcher. Add lemon juice and another 2 1/2 cups cold water. Stir well.

Pour into tall glasses half-filled with ice or refrigerate until ready to use.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Snappy Salted Potatoes

Salted potatoesMy brother came over on Sunday for dinner and whipped up a batch of fingerling potatoes.

Okay, "whipped up" is definitely not the correct description to use because he used a technique his friend Leonardo showed him for cooking salted potatoes that requires very little effort. The end result is that you have salty, snappy potatoes that are cooked to perfection.

Curious? Well, I was too. Basically, you just place your fingerlings (or other small) potatoes in a saucepan and fill the pot with water until the potatoes are just covered. Huck in a handful of salt (anywhere from a few teaspoons to a tablespoon depending on how many potatoes you are rocking) and simmer/boil uncovered until all the water is boiled away and there's nothing left but potatoes and salt. I guess this method is similar to papas arrugadas, which are popular in the Canary Islands.

The potatoes will squeal for life as the water evaporates away, but do not fear. This is part of the process that will result in fabulous potatoes. All in all, it takes about 45 minutes to cook. What you get in the end are creamy potatoes with a skin that snaps when you bite into them.

Serve with creme fraiche (or sour cream) mixed with chopped chives and pepper. Do not add any additional salt as the potatoes themselves are good n' salty. I guarantee you won't be able to stop eating them. Which is a good thing.