Sunday, November 24, 2013

Breakfast Becomes Dinner and Dinner Becomes Lunch - November 24, 2013

Last weekend we went to our property in Pendleton County to turn off the water for the winter to find that the pipes had already frozen.  We decided to stay the weekend, but our provisions were limited which led to a fun circle of using the leftovers from each meal to make the next.  On the drive, John had stopped and picked up a cheap loaf of wheat bread, a dozen eggs and a tube of breakfast sausage to make breakfast our first morning.  So, when we started planning for dinner, he remembered making his fancy sourdough sausage dressing a year ago for Thanksgiving and decided to riff.  He made dressing with nothing but sandwich bread, an egg, a sauteed onion and apple, some salt, pepper and Herbs de Province and a half tube of crumbled sausage.  This was stuffed into a whole chicken which moistened it more and cooked according to his roasted Italian chicken recipe below.  It was a winner.

Roasted Italian Chicken

3 lbs potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks (or get those tiny ones and leave whole)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup minced parsley (optional)
4-5 lbs chicken, in parts (or whole chicken)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss potatoes with half the oil and parsley plus salt and pepper.  Coat the chicken with the other half and sit on top of the potatoes in a baking pan with sides.  Cook a half hour and stir up potatoes before returning for another half hour until the outside of the chicken is crisp and the meat is cooked through.

After dinner, we still a great deal of chicken, so it was time for chicken salad sandwiches.  I asked my mother-in-law Mary Ellen how she makes hers and it's simple and delicious.

Mary Ellen's Chicken Salad 

1 c. Chopped Chicken pieces

2 T. mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry powder
halved grapes
chopped walnuts

Mix all together and eat.

You can of course riff on this.  I usually use Durkee's instead of mayonnaise.  You can also use different nuts or add celery and onion.

One Year Ago - Post Thanksgiving Stew and Turkey Jook

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cucumber Pickles - Canned and Refrigerated - November 14, 2014

I am not sure why it took me so long to get to this blog.  Most years, I grow cucumbers and get one before the vine is infested and dies.  This year was the exception and yet I neglected to talk at all to this point about our successful crop and what we had to do to use it all (in addition to sharing with neighbors).  Perhaps I was simply afraid to jinx our success.

We grew a small heirloom cucumber this year that was great for pickling (except for the few occasions where I missed one and it became too big for pickling).  The larger ones we made into refrigerator pickles.  My neighbor, Sue has this down to a science using mostly English cucumbers from the farmer's market.  she has learned that adding tea and other ingredients keeps the pickle crisp even when very salty.  My methods are more simple which is probably fine since I usually eat them the following day.

Refrigerator Pickles
1 large cucumber
Rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar

Slice cucumber in rounds and place in plastic container.  Cover with vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste along with sugar.  Let sit several hours to overnight and enjoy.

But, I especially like to make canned dill pickles with just a little pepper to give them more flavor without overpowering my sandwich or bloody mary.  Here is the basic canned recipe.  I make the full amount of brine and keep the extra in the fridge.  Then, I can pick the small cucumbers and can a jar each night until it is all used up.  If the brine is already prepared, i can just do this on the side while preparing dinner.

The Perfect Dill Pickle
2 c. white vinegar
2 c. water
2 T. salt
3 lb. small cucumbers
4 garlic cloves
4 tsp. peppercorns
4 heads dill or 4 tsp. dill seed
4 cayenne peppers

In medium saucepan, bring vinegar, water and salt to boil until salt is dissolved.  Fill 4 quart jars will cucumbers, garlic, peppers and spices.  Pour brine over each jar, seal and boil in water bath 10 minutes.

Everything is gone in our garden now, but I still have beautiful canned jars on the shelf ready to enjoy all winter.

One Year Ago -

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Last of the Fall Harvest - November 9, 2013

We have been very fortunate with a very mild Fall this year.  I think we have had two overnight freezes, but they were both very late.  This means that we still have some greens and fennel in the garden, but we have pulled up everything else.  And, just before the freeze, we had that amazing opportunity to get bushels of ripe red peppers for next to nothing when you usually have to pay $1.50 a piece.  During the same time, I had co-workers, friends and my garden box sharing a bumper crop of eggplant.  I love both red peppers and eggplant, but I must admit, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed trying to make use of them all.

You can simply cut up the peppers and freeze in freezer bags.  They get mushy, so you can't just eat them plain once thawed but they are great in sauces and baked or sauteed recipes.  But, I decided to see what I could do with the combination of these two great ingredients.  The first attempt was sauteed peppers and eggplant I found in Bon Appetit.  I admit that I actually made this recipe twice because I thought the eggplant retained too much water the first time, so I tried it again first salting the eggplant to remove that moisture.  Here is the recipe:

Spiced Peppers and Eggplant
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
3/4 cumin seeds, crushed
pinch of saffron
4 red or yellow bell peppers cut into 2" strips
2 baby eggplants, quartered and cut in 1x2" pieces
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 c. torn basil leaves

Salt eggplant pieces and let sit until water seeps from them.  Squeeze out the water with a paper towel and remove as much salt as possible.  Heat the oil in a skillet on med-high and add spices and garlic.  Saute 4 minutes.  Add peppers and eggplant.  Season with pepper.  (You also need to add salt if you didn't salt the eggplant before.)  Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add vinegar.  Add basil just before serving.

My favorite combination, however, was this old canning recipe I found in a canning cookbook. First, these cans look absolutely beautiful on your shelf or as a gift.  Second, they are a ready made meal.  You just open the jar, and serve on warm bread with goat cheese!!!

Pepper, Basil and Eggplant in Oil
5 small eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 large red peppers
4 large yellow peppers
1 c. olive oil
3/4 c. cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
10+ large basil leaves

Broil the eggplant slices on a sprayed cookie sheet about 4 inches from broiler, turning to cook both sides about 15-20 minutes total.  At the same time, broil peppers 4 inches from broiler, turning until the skins are bubbly and dark all around, about 30 minutes.  Place peepers in brown bag until cooled when skins should peel off.  Quarter and remove seeds.

Heat the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Simmer 4-5 minutes.  Alternate eggplant, peppers and basil in wide mouthed pint jars.  Pour oil mixture over each, cap and seal in boiling water 10-14 minutes.

One Year Ago - Brussels Sprouts