Simple Pickled Onions

May 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

Pickled onions: sliced red onion, a cup or so of red wine vinegar, a few teaspoons of honey, smashed gloves of garlic, and two bay leaves (chili flakes, whole pepper corns, whole cloves, if you want them) that you let sit for several hours or a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.  I love them and they’re my current favorite thing to put in everything.  Eggs, salads, rice dishes, bean dishes, meat dishes, tacos, mixtures of salads and grains (like this yummy concoction I ate, sans sausage, for lunch and will probably eat for dinner), on toasts with cheese, eating them straight out of the jar, what have you.  I told you I loved them.

I know all the onion haters out there are crinkling their lips and noses, but seriously, these are not the onions you are thinking of when you say “I hate onions”.  They are briny, fruity, a little sweet.  Perfect for a dish that tastes just a little flat.  You know what I mean: like it could stand some tartness and color punctuating the mix.  Try these.

Keeping pickled onions on hand was one of the many great things I picked up from An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler (yes, I’ve talked about this book so much, you may come back next time to find that this blog’s new title is “I love Tamar Adler”. Just kidding).  What I really enjoy about her is the sanity that she brings to the table when talking about cooking (see this TED talk she did).  She tells you to use what you have, what’s readily available, what you can afford, and to use it all to the fullest.  Beans can become transcendent, bread is not something to avoid but something with a million possibilities, eggs are a wonder, and pickled onions a powerful force in the life of a meal.  I can’t recommend her book, her articles, or videos enough if you are at all intimidated in the kitchen or feel like you can’t afford to eat well (something I have definitely felt before).

Moving on to unrelated, but fun things:

::This lemon cream is another delicious egg user (we are calling it “lemon pudding” and “filling”, sandwiched between two butter cookies, but I feel a lemon tart coming on).

::Just remembered how much I like Cowboy Junkies (a blast from the past)

::about to start this book (thanks to Autumn and Michelle for recommending it)

::Still plugging away at the Daisy Chain Sampler and loving how it makes me slow down.

::Thinking of going here with the kids this weekend (I’ve never been!)

::AND I got a special, surprise delivery of liquid gold from my friend Kathy! Excitement!

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Black Olive Pesto

January 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

I’ve been making something lately that I’ve been calling olive tapenade.  I love it.  I can’t get enough of it.  I put it on everything.  Obviously I thought I should share it here, because this is where I put things that I like, but in the process, I discovered that I haven’t been making tapenade at all.  You see, by definition, “tapenade” is only “tapenade” when made with capers (you know, those tiny green berry-looking things that are usually right near the olives the grocery store).  So what have I been making? Olive pesto, olive spread, olive stuff?  I’m not sure, or sure that it even matters, because whatever its name is, it makes almost everything I cook taste better.

I’ll typically make a batch, put it in a jar in the refrigerator, and then wait to see what I can put it on throughout the week.  Lately, it’s been going everywhere: pizzas, roasted chicken, stirred into warm bowls of bean or vegetable soup (my favorite), spooned on top of plain vegetables, on little toasts, and finally, when there is only a little left, I add more oil and some vinegar to make a dressing for salad. It’s versatile, uses 5 ingredients (counting olive oil and salt), and takes about 5-10 minutes to make, even if you chop everything by hand (which is what I’ve been doing b/c I can’t find the blade to my food processor).  See why I love it?  Also, this is one of those things that tastes so much better when you make it yourself, and to make it costs a fraction of what it costs to buy already made.

Find more ideas on how to use it here, and, if you make it, let me know your favorite ways to use it.

Quick Black Olive Pesto

Have a small jar or mixing bowl available.  Pit and finely chop about 25 black olives (Niçoise are pricey, so I use Kalamata).  Finely chop 1-2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary OR thyme.  In a mortar and pestle (or on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife), smash 1-2 (depending on how you feel about garlic) small garlic cloves with a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, until a paste forms.  Mix olives, herbs and garlic paste together in small jar or bowl.  Add 3-5 tablespoons of good olive oil and stir to combine. taste to see if it needs salt (mine never does, but you have to check).

Optional additions: lemon zest (really good), crushed red pepper flakes, a teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar.

Makes approximately one cup.

A First

April 5, 2011 § 3 Comments

Things have been so crazy around my house lately that my cooking has slowed down a bit.  I mean, I’ve still been feeding people, but haven’t had the energy to do the whole cook/photograph/write something about it routine.  It’s been more like survival cooking.  Think nachos, pizza, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and the like.  Nothing too creative.

A couple of weeks ago, though (see, I told you I’ve been busy!), my sister-in-law and I went strawberry picking with some of our kids and brought home about 20 quarts of berries.  It was perfect weather, the berries were incredibly cheap, the girls had a great time finding the “best” berries (and eating them right then and there), and I was excited about all the culinary potential coming home with us! What to do with them?

Well, we just ate a bunch of them.  I froze a good portion, too (look for a strawberry basil ice cream recipe coming up sometime in the near future).  But, Kristi and I decided since neither of us had ever made jam, that was what we were going to do with the rest of them.  It would be a learning experience that would gain us some refrigerator space while making something nostalgic and tasty at the same time.

We researched and watched videos like this one, and ultimately used an Ina Garten recipe found here.  Besides the fact that it took about three times as long to make as the recipe stated, it went pretty well for our first time.  We borrowed her mom’s old canning supplies to help us sterilize everything, but we made such a small batch, I think that was pretty unnecessary.  I’ll just consider it good practice.

Truthfully, I’d been wanting to make jam for a long time, so I was happy to get the experience under my belt.  I really liked the final product, too. As is the case so many times in my house, it wasn’t exactly loved by everyone (“too tart!”), but what are you gonna do?  In my mind:  I made my first jam! We even got the jars to seal and everything, so even with some naysayers, I’m calling it an overwhelming success.



Heat in the Freezer

January 25, 2011 § 4 Comments

My husband decided sometime last year that he wanted to grow hot peppers in our garden. I think he was doing some comparing with Uncle Shebo’s (otherwise known as Kevin) garden down road. He picked Habaneros. Not being a huge fan of being in pain while I eat, I hadn’t cooked with Habanero peppers before, and I wasn’t excited to try.  So, when 80 little orange fireballs came in from the garden, I knew my horizons were going to broaden.

The thing was, the recipes I found for salsa would call for, say, HALF a pepper in the whole recipe.  I needed something that would make a bigger dent in our, um, bounty.  I found a Rick Bayless (Mexican food expert) recipe for hot sauce that used 12 peppers in one recipe (the most of any I found) and I knew that was the one.   I put them in a zip top bag in the freezer until I got around to making it.

I didn’t get around to it until Christmas, but Vince finally got to eat his peppers.  Vince’s Smokin’ Hot Sauce (or Rick Bayless’) went over really well.  It was really good in black beans and rice, but, surprisingly,  it was great in Martha Stewart’s mac n cheese!  He loves it on almost anything that isn’t ice cream (but he did say just yesterday that he thought Habanero ice cream would be awesome! yah.) so we ran out within the month.  The freezer still held plenty of icy peppers, so I made hot sauce round #2 today.  We’ll have to see about the ice cream…

Habanero Hot Sauce Adapted from Season 5 of “Mexico One Plate at a Time”

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 cup peeled, chopped carrot (one medium)
1/2 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
12 medium orange Habanero chiles, stemmed
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or you can use white)
About 2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Roast the garlic in a skillet over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the skins brown in spots and the cloves are soft. Cool and peel.

Place carrot, onion, Habanero, vinegar and 1 cup water in a saucepan.  Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are tender.  It should take about 10 minutes.  Pour into a blender , add the garlic, salt and sugar.  Blend. If you need to thin the sauce, add water.

Pour into jars or bottles and store in the refrigerator.  Add a little for a lot of heat!

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