Archive | July, 2011

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

31 Jul

As you may have noticed, we’ve been receiving an abundance of pickling cucumbers in our weekly CSA baskets.  I’ve already made a batch of really delicious bread and butter pickles from them, but since Zak prefers dill, I thought I’d try my hand at those as well.  These pickles could not be any easier or cheaper to make – all you need to do is get your ingredients ready, throw some in the jar, simmer the rest, and then combine.  The hardest part is waiting 24 hours to try one.  These are crispy and salty with a lovely bite from the acid, hint of garlic and spice, and punch of dill.

Dill Pickles

18 pickling cucumbers

1 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced

8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

4 cups fresh dill, packed

4 cups water

4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup pickling/canning salt

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp. dill weed

1/2 tsp. Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning

Storage inside of refrigerator:  Run jars through dishwasher or place in a 200º oven for 10 minutes.

Storage outside of refrigerator:  Place empty jars on a metal rack or metal collander in a large pot.  Fill pot with warm water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low in order to keep jars hot and ready for canning.  Pour boiling water over both lids and rings.

Cut about 10 of the skinniest cucumbers into quarters to make spears.  Place the cucumbers  into a large bowl.  Add 2/3 cup onion, 4-5 of the garlic cloves, and 3 cups of fresh dill.  Set aside.

Using a mandolin fitted with the crinkle cut blade set to 1/4″, cut the remaining 8 fattest cucumbers into slices.  Place the cucumbers into a medium bowl.  Add 1/3 cup onion, 3-4 of the garlic cloves, and 1 cup of fresh dill.  Set aside.

In a medium pot, add remaining ingredients.  Set heat to medium.  Frequently whisking, heat until nearly at a boil and all of the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Pour about 2/3 over the spear cucumbers and 1/3 over the crinkle cut cucumbers in the bowls.

Let cool to room temperature.

For spear cucumbers, use a set of kitchen tongs to take about half of dill and half of onions and place in the bottom of a canning jar.  Repeat in a second canning jar.  Place half of spears in each jar and pour brine, including garlic cloves and whole peppercorns, over top into jars.  Screw caps on and shake a few times.  Place in the refrigerator.  The pickles will be ready in a minimum of 24 hours.  They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

For crinkle cut cucumbers, use a set of kitchen tongs to take the dill and onions and place in the bottom of a canning jar.  Place the crinkle cut cucumbers in the jar and pour brine, including garlic cloves and whole peppercorns, over top into jars.  Screw caps on and shake a few times.

If storing in the refrigerator:  Place in the refrigerator.  The pickles will be ready in a minimum of 24 hours.  They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

If storing outside the refrigerator:  Transfer the jar to the hot water bath.  Water must be about an inch over the top of the jar.  Raise heat and boil vigorously for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from water and let cool.  Once opened, lid should make a “pop” noise if it was properly sealed.

Geauga Family Farms CSA – Week Seven

30 Jul

Summer CSA – Week Seven

In this week’s share, we received a pint of lovely cherry tomatoes, three red tomatoes, a large sweet onion, 2 large cucumbers, 2 yellow squash, a head of leafy red lettuce, and a half dozen pickling cucumbers.  As you can see in the picture, I added a dozen eggs as an extra.  At only $3/dozen, these farm fresh eggs are well worth the price.  As with the vegetables and fruits, the difference in flavor due to the freshness is really noticeable.

I still have two bulbs of kohlrabi from two weeks back, as well as a couple of tomatoes, one from last week and one from the week before.  I also have ayellow squash and half a head of cabbage leftover.  I ended up throwing a head of lettuce from week five that I found wilted in the back of my crisper into some homemade chicken stock I have simmering on the stove, but other than that, I’ve used most everything.  As predicted, I used most of the fruit by stirring it into some plain Greek yogurt or by itself for a morning snack at work.  My slow cooker sweet onion soup used the gorgeous sweet onion from last week.  The sweet onions we’ve been receiving from the CSA are to-die-for, and certainly made the onion soup extra sweet and delicious.  I used the entire carton of multicolored cherry and grape tomatoes in the roasted cherry tomato and herbed ricotta tart, which I ate as leftovers both cold and room temperature and could not get enough of.  I think I liked it best cold because the tomatoes were so sweet they tasted like candy.  I used CSA beets, potatoes, and cabbage in my barley borscht.  This morning, I used all of our pickling cukes, including the ones received today, to make some refrigerator dill pickles, the recipe for which I will be posting in the next few days (assuming they turned out okay!).

So far, I don’t have any solid plans for this week.  I’m definitely thinking about a couple of pasta dishes, but haven’t decided exactly what direction to take them in yet.  I’ll probably also make a cucumber and onion salad.  Zak really loved the ratatouille I made a few weeks back, so perhaps I’ll make a variation on that.  Zak just brought home some fillets of wild Alaskan cod and semolina pasta, so I’m thinking about breading it with some fresh bread crumbs, cooking it up in a pan, and serving it over some pasta with squash and tomatoes.  Other than that, I really don’t know – but with these delicious, fresh ingredients, I’m sure anything I decide to make will be pretty darn good.

Barley Borscht

29 Jul

The community I grew up in has a very large Russian immigrant presence in it, so I’m no stranger to borscht.  My first long term high-school boyfriend’s mom tried to feed me basically every time I came over, and borscht made a frequent appearance on the household menu.  The first time she put a bowl down in front of me, I remember thinking, “You are going to choke this down no matter how terrible it is.”  I hadn’t had much experience with beets, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  I wrinkled my nose, closed my eyes, and downed a spoonful.

And I liked it.  A lot.  I started to look forward to those days I would walk in the house and smell the earthy aroma of cabbage and beets that signaled it was a borscht day.  She served it both hot and cold, and I enjoyed both versions immensely.  There are a million different versions of borscht out there, and this one is an amalgamation of several based on what I had on hand and was economical.  This version was pumped up a notch of heartiness by leaving the beets in diced pieces and including some barley for a serving of grains.  Earthy, sweet, savory, homey, and delicious, this was everything a good borscht should be.

Barley Borscht

6 cups homemade chicken stock

1.3 lb. beef chuck neck bones

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 medium beets, peeled and diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup cabbage, shredded (I shredded about half a cup very fine in the food processor and half a cup roughly by hand)

2 cups crushed canned tomatoes, with juice (I used my dad’s home canned tomatoes and they were deeeeeeelish)

3/4 cup barley

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Place beef, chicken stock, and onion in a slow cooker.  Place on low and heat, covered, 8-10 hours.  Strain the broth and place the liquid back in the slow cooker.

Add beets, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and barley to the slow cooker.  Raise heat of slower cooker to high and cover.  Cook about two hours until vegetables are tender and barley is cooked through.  Stir in dill and season to taste.

Can be served hot or cold.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Tart

27 Jul

I walked out of work today and one of my co-workers mentioned that it was kind of “chilly” out.  I don’t know if 80-some degrees qualifies as “chilly,” but I figured it had cooled down just enough to turn on my oven for the first time in awhile.  I initially thought about using the beautiful grape and cherry tomatoes we received from our CSA in a simple pasta.  However, I had purchased a tart pan at Target a few weeks back that was asking for some use with increasing ferocity.  So, I thought a lovely savory tart with ricotta and roasted tomatoes might be a good maiden voyage for it.

I absolutely loved this tart.  The creamy ricotta worked beautifully with the slightly tart, slightly sweet flavors of the tomatoes, earthy tones of the ricotta and rosemary, brightness of the parsley, and sweet tang of the lemon zest.  We ate it warm for dinner tonight, but I am very much looking forward to a cold slice of this tart for lunch tomorrow.  This was light, bright, creamy and delicious.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Tart

Savory Tart Dough:

Adapted from Laylita’s Recipes

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Pinch of salt

12 tbs. or 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter

2 eggs

3-4 tbs. very cold water

Non-stick cooking spray

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade and pulse 2-3 times to combine.

Add butter in small pieces while pulsing, until dough begins to thicken.

While pulsing, add the eggs and a little bit of water at a time until small clumps of dough begin to form.

Remove the dough from the food processor and form into 2 balls.  Use immediately or chill for 30 minutes if the dough is too warm from handling.  [Note:  This makes double the dough that you will need for the tart.  I froze the extra half for future use – I’ll let y’all know how it turns out when I use it!]

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a thin sheet.  Spray tart pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Drape dough over tart pan.  Leave enough excess dough so that it can be folded over the edges of the pan, trimming all excess dough.  Neatly fold dough under the edges of the pan and prick the dough with a fork.  Let rest in the refrigerator about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Line the dough with tinfoil and cover with dry beans or baking beads.  Bake 20 minutes or until edges are very faintly golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Filling:

1 pint multicolored cherry and grape tomatoes, rinsed clean

1 tbs. olive oil

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, drained

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tbs. lemon zest

1 tbs. rosemary, roughly chopped

1/4 cup curly leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º.

Toss tomatoes in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until very tender.

Meanwhile, place ricotta, baking soda, lemon zest, rosemary, and parsley in a food processor.  Pulse 4-5 times until well combined  Once tomatoes are roasted, gently fold tomatoes and excess olive oil into filling.

Place filling in prebaked tart crust.  Transfer to oven and let bake 30-40 minutes until ricotta filling has set and golden brown and tart crust is cooked through.  You should be able to insert a toothpick in the filling and have it come out clean.

Slow Cooker Sweet Onion Soup

26 Jul

Though soup is not traditionally a summer staple, I’m here to make an argument for summer soup.

Soup can be as labor intensive or lazy as you want.  Sure, a chowder can be time consuming, with all of the dicing and chopping of myriad vegetables.  But soup can also take less than two minutes of hands on time, such as this delicious slow cooker sweet onion soup.  Using a mandolin, I sliced up a huge sweet onion in about a minute.  I smashed a couple cloves of garlic with the flat of a knife, and then I tossed the ingredients in a slow cooker and turned a knob.  I didn’t have to stand over a hot stove or preheat an oven.  And that is a huge asset on these steamy summer nights.

Soup can be both hearty and heavy or light and bright.  This soup was a mixture between the two – the consistency was light and delicious, with no heavy starches or creams to weigh it down.  However, the flavors were hearty and bold, thanks to the caramelized onions, Worcestershire, and balsamic.  Served with some tomato bread, this made for a light but satisfying dinner.

Soup is super cost effective.  Summer is the time of year when those of us who are able head off on vacation and spend our evenings doing fun things.  Neither of which are free.  So, if you’re looking at your bank account and feeling a summer squeeze, soup is the perfect way to pinch some pennies.  Because my homemade chicken stock is made of leftovers that would be otherwise tossed, this soup cost less than a couple of dollars for four or five servings.  After putting an obscene amount of money into my gas tank to get to the cabin and back this weekend, a cheap and healthy dinner is just what the doctor ordered.

This slow cooker sweet onion soup kept the kitchen cool but had all the comforting goodness of a proper soup.  Though similar to a French onion soup, it was a bit lighter thanks to the use of chicken stock in place of beef.  The sweet onion from the CSA really kicked the deliciousness up to another level thanks to its freshness and extra sweetness.  Basically, this soup was intensely gratifying and amazingly delicious and the perfect summer dinner.

Slow Cooker Sweet Onion Soup

1 large sweet onion, sliced 1/8″ thick

1/3 cup canola oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

3 bay leaves

1 tbs. whole black peppercorns

1 tbs. kosher salt

1 tbs. balsamic

2-3 cups homemade chicken stock

2-3 cups leftover liquid from boiling a golden beet (if you don’t have this, just use an extra few cups of chicken stock … I only have it thanks to B, who is kind enough to send all sorts of yummy kitchen extras our way)

Place onion, canola oil, garlic cloves, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, whole black peppercorns, and salt in a slow cooker.  Cook on low setting 8-10 hours, stirring occassionally if possible.  [Note:  I flipped on the slow cooker before heading to work and the onions were perfectly caramelized and gorgeous when I came home about nine hours later.]

Increase heat of slow cooker to high.  Let heat increase for ten minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and let cook off, about 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chicken stock and beet cooking liquid to a simmer on the stove.  Add chicken stock and beet cooking liquid and let simmer at least an hour until flavors meld.

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