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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Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

If you’ve spent any time here at all you know money is pretty tight for us.  We never go hungry or anything, but there is very little cushion at times and for the past week or so, we’ve been scraping: no spending unless it’s gas in the car.   That means no new groceries (we eat what’s already in the house plus the eggs from our chickens), no drive through coffees, etc..  It’s not a self-imposed period of no spending.  There just isn’t any money until we get paid again, and so we tighten down and make do. This go around hasn’t been horrible (we’ve done it before),  but the boxed in feeling is never fun. Thankfully, these periods pass, and on the other side, I feel a little more confident in our ability to live on very little,  and far more grateful for the relative luxury in which we live most of the time.

As far as cooking goes, when the money runs low, I’ve noticed I make a lot of two things: bread and beans. Suitable, right? So, today, I’m going to talk about bread and next time we’ll go over the method I use for beans. I know, I know. You’re on the edge of your seat! But these are great standbys to have in your arsenal if ever you need to tighten your belt.

So, bread: I’ve written about the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method before, and I still think it’s a super convenient way to make excellent homemade bread.  It does, however, use a lot of yeast and, I’m wanting to cut back on that (mostly because I’m fascinated by the voodoo that is a naturally leavened bread and consider using less yeast as a step toward that and yes, I might be crazy).  So, I have a new (to me) favorite that is similar in convenience but uses less yeast: Jim Lahey’s (the owner of NYC’s Sullivan Street Bakery) no-knead method.  It’s been talked about here, there, and everywhere, and for good reason.  This bread will make you swoon.  It’s that good.  It’s hard to believe that the luxurious, comforting, crusty loaf of bread that results is made only of flour, water, salt and yeast.  Every time I make it, I feel like a magician. And like I’m stealing.  Surely something so inexpensive can’t be this good or this simple, I think.  But it is all of those things. And it’s perfectly suited to fill in the gaps of a lean week of meals.  It’s as my Sicilian great-grandfather is quoted as saying, “you take one bite of meat, five bites of bread”. Good advice for our scrappy weeks.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Note: this makes a pretty large loaf of  bread and unless you are feeding a large group, you will have leftovers. This is a great opportunity to make toasts (bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or so and rubbed with a clove of garlic) that you can top with anything you like (cheese, fried egg, wilted greens, all of the above, etc, etc).  You can also make fresh breadcrumbs.  Or, you can tear them in pieces, toss with olive oil and a bit of salt, bake until crunchy, and have the best croutons you have ever tasted.

3 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)

special equipment: a 6-8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, cast iron, or ceramic)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is incorporated (not more than a minute). The dough will be pretty shaggy and sticky.  Lightly oil another medium-sized bowl or large container with a lid and transfer the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap or top and let sit for 12-18 hours at room temperature (about 70 degrees F).

When the time is up (the dough will have bubbles on the surface), use a spatula to remove the dough from the container to a well floured surface.  With floured hands, gently fold the dough over on itself once or twice (in half is fine).  Let sit for 15-30 minutes more and then shape into a ball.  Move dough to one half of a floured towel (not terry cloth, but a smooth kitchen towel).  Sprinkle the top with flour and cover with the rest of the towel.  Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

In the last part of the rise preheat the oven to 450-500 degrees F.  Place the container and lid in the oven to preheat, as well. Once the dough has doubled in size, take the hot pot out of oven, take off the lid and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Don’t worry what it looks like at this point. You can transfer the dough to the pot while still on the towel by picking up the towel like a tray with two hands. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover the pot and let bake for 15-30 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and pot and let cool completely on a rack.

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