Pickle Me This, Pickle Me That

Carrots.  Out.  The.  Wazoo. Between the CSA and my garden, I am Bugs Bunny's best friend.  I love carrots, don't get me wrong, but my ideas are getting exhausted.  So right when my cucumber vines exploded, I dug into the past and resurrected my pickle recipes.

These are ice box pickles, remember, and are meant to be stored in the fridge.  Indefinitely.  But definitely in the fridge, not on your pantry shelves.  If you want to store them on your pantry shelves you have to follow proper canning methodology which I'm not getting into here.  These are meant to go in the fridge.  Nod your heads at me.  Good.

To fill up 4 half-pint jars you need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (any kind, white, apple cider)
  • 1 rounded tsp kosher salt
  • 2 rounded tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp peppercorns, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes OR 1 1/2 tsp of McCormick's pickling spice

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then turn off the heat and let sit 5 minutes.  Wash jars, rings and lids with soapy water.

For cucumbers


Wash, then slice or cut into spears.  Put one smashed garlic clove and one sprig of fresh dill into each jar.  If you have no fresh dill, add 1 tsp to the brine above.  Pack cucumbers into jars, then pour brine over, leaving 1/2 of head space.  Wipe rims of jars, then put on lids and screw on rings.  Let cool, then store in fridge.

For carrots:


Wash, peel, then cut into uniform spears.  Follow same directions above, but replace the dill with thyme (fresh or dried).

Pickled cucumbers will be ready to crunch on pretty much overnight.  Pickled carrots you want to wait a week or so to let them soak up a lot of brine.  My CSA delivers orange, white and purple carrots.  I knew the purple ones would bleed so I kept them in their own jars.

Now.  Are you ready for a treat?  Pickled grapes.  I know, I know, I thought the same thing.  But you have to try them.  It's Molly Wizenburg's recipe, from Orangette, she made them for her wedding.  Make one little batch and try them, trust me.  They are wonderful.

Pickled Grapes with Black Pepper and Cinnamon

  • 1 pound red grapes, preferably seedless
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Using a small, sharp knife, trim away the "belly button" at the stem end of the grape, exposing a bit of the flesh inside. Put the grapes into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then pour the mixture immediately over the grapes. Stir to combine. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Pour the grapes and brine into jars with tight-fitting lids (or cover the bowl with plastic wrap), and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve cold.


Small, Snobby Miracles...

It's that time of year when small miracles come out of the garden. It's that time of year when I'm a total snob in the grocery store, self-righteously pushing my cart past the greens, carrots and peas because (sniff) I have my own thank you very much.

I gave peas a chance and as usual I'm glad I did. There's nothing like them. True, it's a lot of work for a small yield, but shelling peas is almost as satisfying as eating them. As for eating, I've been observing and I noticed that as a side dish, you really don't consume more than a serving spoon of peas at a dinner sitting. A little is enough. And when you picked them twenty minutes ago, blanched them for 30 seconds and served them with a pat of butter and a little salt and pepper, it's plenty.

Now you know what else is awesome? Swiss chard. I've never grown it before and frankly, where the hell have I been? I picked yellow and pink because hey, if vegetables come in yellow and pink, you should grow them. And it is a snap. Sow. Grow. Pick. Wash. Chop or don't chop. Saute in a bunch of garlic cloves, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper until wilted. Add a little chicken broth, cover and braise. Flush proudly when your husband drinks the pot liquor and demands, "Grow more."

Oh, by the way, these turkey-veggie meatballs are a knock-off the famous Martha Stewart meat loaf recipe. It's a great way to get rid of any leftover steamed broccoli or cauliflower, or both.  Carrots, celery, onion, garlic—just throw it all in there.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Bok Choy with Asian-style Ribs

I've been on a mission to try bok choy for some time now, and a few stir-fry recipes from Fast, Fresh & Green have clinched the deal.  But Susie Middleton really threw down the gauntlet when she added as a blithe aside, "these would be good with some oven-roasted boneless pork ribs."


Asian-style boneless pork ribs.  In the slow-cooker.  Did such a thing exist?

Consult the Oracle.  Of course it exists.  My searchings led me to the blog Choosy Beggars, and this awesome post about boneless Asian BBQ beef ribs.   She used beef, I figured it would work just as well for pork.  I'm not going to transpose it here, because hers is so well-written, being both about ribs and about slow cookers in general.  Just know I followed the recipe to the letter (and yes, there was a special shopping trip involved for things like oyster sauce, Chinese 5-spice powder, etc), and I'll give you a few impressions here:

1) The recipe calls for a grated onion.  I know.  You just have to suck it up and do.  I've heard all kinds of tricks for keeping tears at bay while working with onions; frankly the only thing that is a surefire thing for me is having my contact lenses in.  No such luck so last night I had to try the remedy of chewing gum as I grated.  Not much help.  It was a sobby business.

2) The sauce smells amazing.  I put it all together last night in a tupperware container and the smell lingered around the kitchen for a while.

3) Ribs in cooker.  Sauce on top.  10 hours.  That's the extent of it.  At the end, you will need to skim quite a bit of fat off the top.

4) I didn't love them.  I know, bummer, huh?  They smelled amazing, they looked divine, they cozied up beautifully to the bok choy over rice, they were thoroughly enjoyable.  But I didn't love them.  Maybe I'd love them if they were beef ribs but somehow I don't think so.

I did, however LOVE the bok choy.  That and the rice I could eat over and over again.  So that said, here is the real star of the show...

Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Golden Garlic and Silky Sauce

(I added some halved baby carrots to this recipe just so there would be something for the kiddies to fall back on)

  • 12 oz baby bok choy (4-5 heads that are 6-7" long)
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (one of the specialties I had to go get, it was in both this and the rib sauce)
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil (and again, had to seek that out.  Wow, does peanut oil smell good!)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced very thinly crosswise
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cut the bok choy lengthwise into quarters.  Wash them well by swishing them in a bowl of tepid water, and spin them dry (I shook mine dry, I didn't feel like breaking out the spinner).

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, broth and cornstarch

In a large, non-stick stir fry pan, heat the peanut oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic slices and break them up.  Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds (it smells awesome!)  Add the bok choy to the pan.  Season with the salt and turn the heat up to high.  Using tongs, toss the bok choy with the oil to coat and to distribute the garlic slices.

Cook, rotating and turning the bok choy with the tongs and spreading it out so that all of the stems have some contact with the pan as they cook, and so that the garlic doesn't all gather on the bottom of the pan, until all of the bok choy stems are browned in parts (9 to 12 minutes).

Remove the pan from the heat and, using a silicone spatula, immediately stir the sauce as you pour it into the pan.  As soon as the sauce thickens and begins to coat the vegetables, transfer to the bok choy and the sauce to a serving dish.

Delicious.  The bok choy was crisp and savory, perfect with the sweetness of the carrots, and the sauce is indeed silky.  Really loved this dish.

Smoky Carrots & Fennel

My friend Potter got married a couple weeks ago on Governor's Island. It was an exceptionally lovely wedding withe three (3) kinds of cake: red velvet, carrot and key lime. One of them had bride-and-groom rubber duckies on top.

On the way home, we had time to kill in Grand Central before catching our train. The boys went into the MTA museum while Panda and I wandered through Pylones, which is a funky little store with no end of cool things. Often they have great little books. And sometimes great great books. I got a present:

I read it the whole way home, with visions of vegetables dancing in my head. This is a great book—awesome recipes and mouth-watering photos. Vegetable porn. It's too great, actually, because I end up dog-earing every page and then when it comes time to actually cook, I can't make up my mind. I want to make everything. Or I lack some essential ingredient to make the one thing I've been dying to try.

Finally tonight I told myself to be sensible and use up the oldest vegetables in the fridge, which in this case was a head of fennel. I thumbed the pages and decided upon...(drum roll):

Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts

Minus the hazelnuts because I did have them, but not toasted. Toasting hazelnuts is a thankless, high-maintenance job which involves babysitting the nuts in the oven, and then giving them a brisk rubdown with a dish towel to remove all the skins. My cleaning lady came today and the last thing I wanted was bits of hazelnut skin all over my pristine kitchen, it was bad enough I was making breaded chicken. Always, always the day Celia comes to clean, I end up making breaded chicken on my immaculate stovetop.

So this dish, sans hazelnuts, uses the "Walk-Away Sauté" method.  As Susie Middleton says:

It does take time—about 30 minutes—to get the carrots and fennel to the perfect texture. But like most of the walk-away sautés, there’s not a heck of a lot you have to do during that time. Stir. Sip wine. Stir. Sip wine. That’s all. Oh, and you can fret a little when you think the pan is getting too brown. But it isn’t really a problem, I promise.

I'm in love.

Susie Middleton's Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb (455 grams, and bless her heart, she gives measurements in standard AND metric) carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced.
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into 3/4" slices
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sherry or rice wine (I used sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I don't know if mine is smoked paprika or sweet or what, I just used what I had)
  • 3 tbsp coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (blah blah blah)

In a straight-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and fennel and season with the salt. Stir well with a silicone spatula to combine. 

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently as the pan begins to brown. Be patient, as it will not look like much is happening in the beginning. Keep stirring and cooking (and don't worry about the pan browning), until the carrots have shrunken quite a bit, are tender (test with a paring knife) and somewhat browned, and the fennel is tender—28 to 30 minutes.

Add the sherry to the pan and stir until it has almost evaporated. Sprinkle the paprika over the vegetables and stir for just a few seconds to incorporate the spice and release its flavor. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool a minute. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the toasted hazelnuts.

This was a perfect dish, Jeeps and I ate every bit. The fennel was smooth as silk and it and the carrots had great, smoky autumn flavor. This would be amazing over polenta. I can see where the hazelnuts would have added that extra something special so I will make a point of having them, pre-toasted, on hand, to make this again. Oh yeah, I'll make it again.