Jarring Summer

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten into preservation. It’s a byproduct of belonging to a CSA – you feel really bad wasting the local produce. While living in a tiny Manhattan apartment, I mostly pickled things using the lacto-fermentation method. A couple of screw top jars don’t take up that much space. We don’t have that much more space here in Boston, but it’s organized differently enough that I have more storage room. So last summer I started to can. Mostly applesauce and apple butter, but a few small batch jams from Preserving By the Pint and Food in Jars. Having a mixed stone fruit jam to spread on my toast in the middle of winter was lovely. So this year I’m trying to get a head start.

So far, I’ve made strawberry jam from Food in Jars. Technically it’s supposed to be strawberry vanilla jam, but I didn’t have any vanilla beans. I compensated by swapping out half the sugar for vanilla sugar. I’m saving this one for a snowy morning in February, but I may have to open a test jar sooner.

Strawberry jam cooling
Strawberry jam cooling

Tonight I put up a batch of Raspberry Peach Spreadable Fruit from The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. The smells of peach and sugar cooking together are fabulous, and I think this one will cheer me up in my yogurt come January.

Raspberry peach jam cooking
Raspberry peach jam cooking
Jars canning in a water bath
Jars canning in a water bath
Jars cooling on the counter
Jars cooling on the counter
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British Style Curry

I love Indian food. My favorite Indian restaurant back in NYC is Pongal, where they make an incredible Alu Gobi, Shahi Paneer and Channa Masala. But while I have a marked preference for the dairy and vegetarian dishes, Himself loved going to Shalom Bombay (where meat dishes were the only options). So when I started cooking Indian at home, I ended up trying to find a foolproof chicken curry recipe. One of these days (probably when Monster gives me a bit more time), I will start on some of the  earmarked recipes in both Indian Cooking Unfolded and The Big Book of Curries, but for now I have a more British style method that doesn’t have a precise recipe. It evolved from this recipe, but took a left turn when I read the chicken curry recipe in Indian Cooking Unfolded. There, the curry sauce goes into a blender (I use an immersion blender), and that produces the thick consistency Himself likes. This makes the food much less authentically Indian and far more British, but I’m OK with that.

British Style Curry

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1-2 lbs of either boneless, skinless chicken or some sort of beef (I use pepper steak) cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 5+ cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2+ T of minced ginger
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • curry powder
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander
  • 1 package frozen cauliflower
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • Frozen peas (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Brown the protein on high in a mixture of coconut oil and canola oil (or schmaltz) and remove to a bowl
  2. Dump the onions in the pan and cook until slightly browned
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until it smells wonderful
  4. Add the spices – no specific amounts are given because it’s different any time I make it. Generally more of both the curry powder and garam masala than anything else.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the can of tomatoes and scrape up the lovely brown stuff on the bottom of the pan
  6. Add the can of coconut milk
  7. Hit the sauce with an immersion blender (or pour it into a blender) until smooth and thick
  8. Add the protein back in, along with the corn and cauliflower and cook on low for ~30 minutes
  9. Add the peas, if using
  10. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with chopped cilantro

Curry

Asian BBQ Crockpot Chicken

So in the process of putting away bulk chicken cutlets, I realized I had quite a lot of barbecue sauce left in a Costco sized bottle. I’d already made up a batch of Applesauce BBQ Chicken (which I know needs a writeup) and was out of cranberry sauce. But I always keep a ton of Asian flavor staples in my pantry, and they sell bottled Asian BBQ sauces. So I figured that I could whip something up. It’s currently chilling in my freezer after a few mishaps in prep today. There will be a writeup as soon as I’ve cooked and eaten it! Obviously this is one to serve over rice, probably with a side of soy & sesame roasted broccoli.

Asian BBQ Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays because that’s what you can get at Costco)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili paste (Sambal Oelek or Chili Garlic Paste)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 3-6 minced garlic cloves (I use a lot, but not everyone likes as much garlic as I do)

Directions (If freezing):

  1. Dump all sauce ingredients into a gallon freezer bag
  2. Add chicken breasts
  3. Freeze flat until ready to use

Directions (If cooking right away)

  1. Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl
  2. Dump over chicken breasts in crockpot
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours

Mexican Themed Shavuot Dinner

This one’s belated, but hey, it’s here!

 

For the one dairy meal I managed to put together for this holiday, I went vaguely Latin flavored with a detour to France for dessert. I also pretty much relied on one cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites: The 250 Most-Requested, Naturally Delicious Recipes from One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants. I really like this cookbook – the food and recipes are generally very approachable, and it’s always nice to have a cookbook that I don’t have to spend hours modifying the recipes for it to be useful.

The main course was Mexican Corn & Cheese Casserole. I’m still tweaking this, because Himself is convinced that it doesn’t count as a main dish if you don’t include an actual dead animal or a facsimile of a dead animal. This means that since the main seasonings of the casserole are coriander and cumin, we turn to Tofurkey’s vegan Chorizo crumble to bulk out the dish. Because there’s more in the casserole than the recipe calls for, it doesn’t *quite* set properly. The texture is a bit closer to overloaded scrambled eggs than a properly set egg custard. I’m going to post the recipe as written, though we leave out the peppers and, as I said, add a full package of chorizo crumble.

The recommended accompaniment to this casserole is Green Beans with Lemon Zest Dressing. These were excellent, though I would be willing to sacrifice the color of the beans to a dressing that had lemon juice rather than zest. I think that it might marry better with the dijon and olive oil than the zest did. The best thing about these beans is that they taste great at any temperature, from right out of the fridge to fresh from the pot.

Because I generally like to put a starch out, I figured I’d continue with the theme and make the Spanish Rice from the same cookbook. This I wasn’t thrilled with. The recommendation to add a pinch of cayenne drowned out the more subtle cumin seeds that were sautéed with the onions and garlic. Either that or my cumin seeds are just old. The salt levels were low enough that the tomato purée didn’t add ANY flavor whatsoever. Basically this rice tasted like texture with heat on the back end. Will not make again without several adjustments. Not going to post the recipe either.

For dessert, I went with a simple concept that can be easily prepared on Yom Tov – a clafoutis. Specifically, this clafoutis from one of my all time favorite recipe sites: Smitten Kitchen. You can pretty much always rely on Deb for a stellar example of any recipe you’re looking for. I used cherries, a common clafoutis ingredient. Recipe is found at the link, and I see no need to retype Deb’s excellent instructions.

Overall, more successes than failures. I’m going to make the rice at least one more time with some adjustments before I write the recipe off entirely (every cookbook has its duds). Below are the recipes for the casserole and green beans. Please enjoy them!

 

Corn & Cheese Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 T oil
  • 1.5 cups diced onions
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup seeded and diced bell pepper (I leave this out as Himself doesn’t care for bell peppers)
  • 3 generous cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (1 16 oz package frozen) split into 2 cups and 1 cup
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and grease an 11 x 7 x 2 inch casserole dish.
  2. In a covered saucepan, warm the oil on medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, sprinkle with half the salt and cook for about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the 2 cups of corn and peppers and stir in the cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes.
  6. Cover and cook until the veggies are tender (about 7 minutes).
  7. While the veggies are cooking, purée the eggs, milk, other half of the salt, black pepper and the reserved cup of corn in a blender (I use an immersion blender in a bowl) until smooth.
  8. When the veggies are done, spread them evenly in the casserole dish. Pour the custard on top and sprinkle with cheese.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for about 35 minutes. The cheese should be golden and a knife inserted into the custard should come out clean.

 

Green Beans with Lemon Zest Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil (spring for the good stuff)
  • 1 minced garlic clove (a nice big one)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 T finely grated lemon zest (VERY fine)

Instructions:

  1. Steam or boil the beans until tender
  2. Stir everything else together in a bowl
  3. Toss the hot beans with the dressing, making sure the coating is even
  4. Salt and pepper to taste

 

You will note that the cookbook is actually linked to the Amazon listing. I’m using Amazon affiliate links now, so please use the ones in the blog entries!

Shavuot 2015

Mostly I’m cooking for dinners. We’re out for all the lunches.

Friday Night:

Saturday Night:

  • Cranberry BBQ chicken (only baked in the oven at 375 for an hourish)
  • Gingered Broccoli and Carrots (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Apple and Pear Crumble

Sunday Night:

  • Corn and cheese casserole (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Green beans with lemon zest dressing (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Spanish rice (Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
  • Cherry Clafoutis

I’m also making a tomato, watermelon and feta salad to bring to a lunch. Will post cookbook recipes later.

Confessions of a Jewish Bacon Lover

It’s all there in the title really. I love bacon. You don’t have to worry about the state of my kitchen – it’s still kosher. The bacon in question is cured beef belly from Grow and Behold.* The founder and CEO of this company was a classmate of mine from age three till high school, so I paid close attention to the various specialty products they were making – sausage, etc. When they introduced a bacon product that seemed to actually behave like bacon,*** I jumped at the opportunity to try it. Our first experience involved fried rashers of bacon and then eggs that had been scrambled in the fat. This made the eggs a bit too rich, but I knew that I could do a lot with this new product.

We joined a CSA the summer before we got married. This meant we ended up with a whole whack of interesting vegetables that Himself was not a big fan of. The first summer I mostly made frittatas out of the dark leafy greens or traded them for more of what the both of us would eat. The second summer, I turned to bacon. It turns out that Himself does enjoy greens properly removed of their bitterness, sautéed in bacon fat and served with bacon crispy bits. So we’ve been eating greens that way for the last few years now.

Bacon Sautéed/Braised Greens

Ingredients:

  • Dark Leafy Greens (kale, chard, collards)
  • Grow & Behold Beef Bacon (either thick cut rashers or chunks)
  • Lots of garlic
  • Chicken Stock
  • Lemon Juice
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Directions

  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces (lardons would be appropriate, I go for itty bitty chunks)
  2. Place them in a large sauté pan (that has a lid) over medium high heat to render out the fat
  3. When the bacon is crispy, remove to a small bowl. Leave the fat in the pan.
  4. If making chard, dump the chopped stems in the fat with some salt. If making hardier greens, skip this step as you will have thrown out the stems.
  5. Chop the garlic VERY fine. Throw it in the fat (with salt if not making chard) on low heat to gently cook the garlic.
  6. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock, scraping up all the lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  7. If making hardy greens, toss them in the pan now with some extra chicken stock and cover the pan. Cook the greens until soft. If making chard, toss the sliced leaves in the pan and crank the heat up to high. Cook until wilted.
  8. When the greens are soft and wilted, season with red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Stir the crispy bacon pieces back in.
  9. Serve to a grateful family.

*Purveyor of fine kosher happy** cows, chickens, lamb and ducks.

**By which I mean allowed to roam free as their natures move them and eat mostly grass, rather than crammed into barns and feedlots and served corn.

***Rather than beef fry, which doesn’t have the right kind of fat striations and mostly just winds up being curly and crispy and not quite good enough.

Shawarma From My Freezer

Himself is a huge shawarma fan, vastly preferring it over falafel every time we go out to our local Israeli joint. So when he saw this recipe on the New York Times website, he asked me to make it. I took a look at it and said “huh, I bet I could prep that ahead and freeze it.” I happened to have two packs of chicken thighs in the fridge that either needed cooking or freezing, so I took about 10 minutes* and prepped the marinade, dumped it over the chicken in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and popped in my freezer.

Last night, I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I chopped up some broccoli and put it on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and za’atar. I dumped the chicken on another pan and shoved it and the broccoli into a screaming hot oven. I won’t say that my whole house smelled like a Middle Eastern restaurant, but the inside of my oven sure did.

Upon eating it, Himself remarked that he “liked this better than he usually likes chicken thighs.” That’s because these (like the grilled ones I made sometime last year that he also liked) are cooked at an insanely high temperature. This is the way you should cook boneless, skinless chicken thighs so that they taste good. I enjoyed it as well, although less than I might have because I had a dentist visit today. Definitely will make again.

Not actually my chicken. Food stylists are much better at presentation than I am.
If you think this is my chicken, you overestimate my abilities a lot.

*It took me a bit longer than normal to prep the marinade because I ran out of ground cumin and had to grind some fresh from seeds in my mortar and pestle.