Refrigerator Pickles Revisited

May 31st, 2019

 

From time to time on this blog, I write that I will try a recipe a different way in the future. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Occasionally, I take a very long time to get around to the new attempt.

When I wrote in May 2010 that I would try a different tack making my asparagus refrigerator pickles, I had no idea it would take me nine years to get around to it. Luckily, when I finally made them the better way (this month!), they were terrific.

I made them for a class and re-made them on Mass Appeal with the show’s new co-host, Alanna Flood. If you watch the video, please note that the salt and sugar are supposed to be boiled with the vinegar and water, not added to the jar later. I was so happy contemplating (and talking about) asparagus that I forgot to read the recipe!

We also remade the rhubarb cobbler I made on my very first visit to the program six years ago. It was as tasty as I remembered it.

So … here is the asparagus recipe, followed by the videos. Enjoy this wonderful time of year, full of produce and possibilities.


Asparagus Refrigerator Pickles


Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus
2 small cloves garlic (or 1 large clove)
a generous branch of dill
3 to 4 peppercorns
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1 pinch sugar

Instructions:

Clean and sterilize a pint jar. After snapping the ends off the asparagus, trim the stalks so that they will fit in the jar and not quite reach the top. (You may add the trimmings to your cream of asparagus soup!) Place them in the jar, and stuff the garlic, dill, and peppercorns in around them.

Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a nonreactive pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cool it for a few seconds; then pour it over the vegetables.

If the jar isn’t quite full, add a little tap water to fill it. Let the pickles cool to room temperature; then place them in the refrigerator and wait 3 to 4 days before serving them. Makes 1 pint.

And now the videos!

 

Tinky Makes Asparagus Pickles

Tinky Makes Rhubarb Cobbler

A Passover Story

April 23rd, 2019

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Israel. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Egypt. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I was scheduled to appear on Mass Appeal on Tuesday, making matzo crunch in one segment and sharing the other segment with JD Fairman, the co-owner of Pioneer Valley Charcuterie.  JD was planning to make the ultimate BLT with homemade tomato jam and his own lovely bacon.h

Unfortunately, JD emailed me Monday evening to let me know that he was feeling horribly ill. I was stuck with an extra segment to fill at the last minute.

My general store had already closed for the night, and I am not the sort of person who gets up early in the morning to shop. I thus had to plan a dish that would use ingredients I had in the house. I decided to continue the matzo theme (it was still Passover, after all) and make matzo brei. For those of you not in the know, this egg dish is a cross between scrambled eggs and French toast.

I hadn’t ever made matzo brei before; my Jewish grandmother didn’t prepare it as far as I can recall. Happily, I HAD previously cooked eggs, its main ingredient, and I happened to have quote a few of those in the house. So I adapted a recipe I found online (thank you, Emily) and added matzo to eggs, onions, cheese, and homemade salsa. (Your salsa does not have to be homemade.)

The result was ideal comfort food, and a wonderful way to use up some of the matzo I had in the house. I recommend it highly. If you feel obliged to finish up your meal with a little matzo crunch, feel free to make that as well.

Happy Passover/Happy Spring….

Matzo Brei with Salsah

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 pieces matzo, broken into small pieces

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1/2 cup salsa

chopped fresh chives to taste (optional, but I saw them coming up in my yard and couldn’t resist!)

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Sauté the onion pieces over medium-low heat until they turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.

While the onion is sautéing, place the matzo pieces in a colander, and place the colander in the sink. Pour boiling water over the matzo until all the pieces are damp. Drain the matzo pieces in the colander.

Set aside about 1/4 cup of the cheese. Stir together the eggs and the remaining cheese in a large bowl. Add the drained matzo pieces and combine well.

Add this mixture to the onions, adding a little more butter/fat if needed to keep the eggs from sticking. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as needed, until the eggs set.

Spoon the egg mixture onto a serving plate. Pour the salsa on top, and garnish with the remaining cheese and the chives. Serve with extra salsa. Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.

And now for the videos:

Tinky Makes Matzo Brei

Tinky Makes Matzo Crunch

Maple Everywhere!

March 13th, 2019
Courtesy of Paul Franz/ The Recorder

March is Massachusetts Maple Month. Farmers in my area are working more or less around the clock to turn the sap that flows from maple trees in spring into the sweet elixir that New Englanders prize year round.

This coming weekend, March 16-17, is Massachusetts Maple Weekend, and members of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association have a number of celebrations planned.

Every time I drive to Greenfield these days, I pass a sign at Hager’s Farm Market luring me with the promise of fried dough topped with maple cream on Saturday. I am trying to resist temptation!

Fortunately, most of my own culinary uses for maple syrup do not involve the extreme sweetness of fried dough or even pancakes. I love to use maple to add a slight sweetness to foods like salad dressings, coleslaw, pork, and even (as you’ll see below) cheese.

I also love to contemplate maple’s place in American history. Colonists learned of its sweet bounty from Native Americans; in early colonial times, maple syrup and sugar were significantly less expensive than imported sugar from cane.

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), a prominent Pennsylvania physician and scholar who was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, promoted maple over cane sugar not because of maple’s price but because of its means of production. Cane sugar was made by slaves, and Rush was an abolitionist.

Other abolitionists took up the cause of maple. Thomas Jefferson, who despite his own slave holdings opposed slavery in principle, fell in love with the idea of maple as an alternative to cane sugar as well.

“What a blessing,” he wrote in 1790, “to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks unnecessary [sic].”

My local maple sugarers could have told Jefferson that successful sugar production requires labor from more than children, but his heart was in the right place. He believed that maple production was a perfect occupation for the “yeoman farmer” he saw as the American ideal.

The sugar maples Jefferson planted at Monticello died; the climate of southern states proved dicey for producing maple syrup.

As sugar became less and less expensive over the decades, even hardy New Englanders (unless they were strict abolitionists) changed over to cane sugar as their primary sweetener. Maple was increasingly viewed as it is today: as an expensive and highly prized specialty food.

Maple played a part again in American history in the early 20th century in the campaign that led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Maple syrup was among the products for which many false claims were made before manufacturers were held accountable by that law.

C.C. Regier noted in a 1933 article, “More than ten times the amount of Vermont maple syrup was sold every year than that state could produce.” Happily, if something is labeled “pure maple syrup” today, the labeling is accurate.

I am are lucky to live in an area where I can purchase pure maple syrup from neighbors and visit working sugarhouses. The photo above shows me getting ready for Saint Patrick’s Day with my beloved maple vinaigrette. (Thanks to Paul Franz at the Recorder for the festive picture!)

One of my current favorite maple recipes comes from the Massachusetts Maple Producer Association. I would never have thought of pairing feta cheese with maple, but the combination is wonderful!

I made it recently on Mass Appeal, along with my Irish Cottage Soda Bread. Here is the feta recipe—and of course the videos are below.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all, and happy maple season!

 

Maple-Baked Feta

I like to serve this sweet-and-savory cheese dish with homemade crostini I make with small, store-bought baguettes.

To prepare the crostini, I slice the bread thinly, rub it with a minimal amount of olive oil on each side, and sprinkle salt on one side. I then bake the crackers for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven, turning them once.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 6-ounce block feta cheese (it’s hard to find a 6-ounce block; use part of a larger block if necessary)
1/4 cup golden raisins
a generous helping of fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle half of the olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish. (I use a brie baker from the potter Jeanne Douillard of Greenfield, Massachusetts.)

Cut the feta so that it is relatively thin and covers most of the surface of the baker. Sprinkle the raisins, rosemary leaves, and pepper over all; then top with the maple syrup and the remaining oil.

Bake until everything is bubbly and one or two raisins are starting to burn. This process can be tricky; you don’t want your dish to blacken, but you do want the cheese to soften.

Let the mixture cool slightly before serving it with crackers or crostini. Serve it with a spoon, and make sure that each little helping gets a bit of everything: cheese, raisins, rosemary, and juice. This cheese dish may also be served on the side of a green salad. Serves 4 to 6.

And now the videos!

Tinky Makes Maple-Baked Feta

Tinky Makes Irish Cottage Soda Bread

National Rhubarb Day

January 23rd, 2019

I couldn’t let National Rhubarb Day pass without a recipe from Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb! This is a short recipe, although it takes a long time to be ready since it has to sit for weeks.

In
fact, it will take an even longer time to be ready NOW because National Rhubarb
Day falls in January, when there is no rhubarb available … unless you want to
import frozen rhubarb, which I have done! (Somehow or other the rhubarb I
freeze at home doesn’t seem to last through the winter.)

My source is Frank Farms in Michigan. The rhubarb costs as much to ship as it does to buy, alas, but it’s good rhubarb.

Of
course, you may certainly wait until rhubarb season to make this simple
cordial. It’s great in goopy desserts like a trifle. Or you may drink it as an
after-dinner liqueur, what my Francophone mother used to call a “digestif.” I
can’t guarantee that it will aid your digestion, but rhubarb is known for its
medicinal properties.

When
I become famous enough, I will work on moving National Rhubarb Day to a more
appropriate time of year. Meanwhile, I assure you that the rhubarb roots are
still there beneath the snow, waiting to be celebrated….

Rhubarb Cordial

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb
1 cup sugar
vodka as needed

Instructions:

Place the rhubarb in a 1-quart Mason jar.  Pour the sugar in over it and stir well; then fill the jar with vodka, cover it, and place it in a cool, dark place. Gently shake and/or turn the bottle twice daily until the sugar dissolves.

At the end of 6 weeks, strain out your cordial.  This recipe makes 2 cups, more or less, depending on the juiciness of your rhubarb.

Holiday Greetings

December 23rd, 2018

Happy everything to all who read this! I hope you, like me, are surrounded by family and friends and looking forward to a positive, healthy new year.

Things are a bit hectic on my end at present; my holiday retail job is going full speed! So here is a quick recipe and not much more to help you celebrate Christmas.

I should note that the recipe—and indeed, some of the ingredients—came to me courtesy of King Arthur Flour. I have made turtles from scratch; there’s a great recipe for them in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I have to admit, however, that I love the idea of making them as quickly and simply as one can with this recipe.

I made them last week on Mass Appeal, along with a family favorite: my mother’s fruitcake! Here is a link to the fruitcake video, and here is the one for the turtles.

Please note that you do have to store the turtles on parchment; they stick to just about any other surface. You won’t have to store them long; they disappear quickly!

Merry Christmas to all…

Snappy Turtles

Ingredients:

16 pecan halves
1 4-ounce block of caramel, cut into 16 pieces, or 16 caramel candies
16 milk chocolate disks or small pieces of chocolate
1 pinch fleur de sel or other sea salt for each candy

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment or silicone.

Spread the pecans around the sheet, keeping them as far apart from each other as possible. Flatten each caramel piece into a round about the size of a half dollar, and place the caramel pieces on top of the pecans.

Heat the candies in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the caramel starts to melt. Remove them from the oven, and press a piece of chocolate on top of each candy. Sprinkle a little of the salt on top.

Allow the candies to cool before removing them from the pan and placing them on parchment paper. Makes 16 candies.