Archive | July, 2012

Pickled Shallots and Sardines on Blue Cheese Toast

24 Jul

This is a pictureless post, because it’s something I eat for lunch in the office and I haven’t been able to either get my wits about me enough in the morning to remember to pack the camera or get a picture that looks like more than a blurry blob with my super crappy cell phone in our not-so-well-lighted lunch room.  But the results are so delicious – and such a great way to use the pickled shallots I recently posted – that I absolutely could not resist posting it.

This lunch is super inappropriate to eat in the office.  Sardines plus blue cheese plus pickles = smelly factory.  So I always make sure I have plenty of gum in my purse for after.  Because as a huge lover of both sardines and blue cheese, once I started thinking about this dish I absolutely could not get it out of my mind.  Also, since we went on vacation a bit back, I had been holding off on grocery shopping until we’d received our first week’s CSA share – so things were looking a bit sparse in both the pantry and refrigerator.

Those lean times tend to be when I make some of my favorite dishes, and this is no exception.  So much that I made it again a few days later, when my pantry and fridge were fully stocked.  This open-faced sandwich is definitely not for the faint of heart (err … palate).  The blue cheese is pungent and rich and creamy.  The sardines are, well, sardine-y – briney and delicious.  The pickles are packed with a punch of coriander and vinegar, cutting through the richness of the cheese and fishiness of the sardines.  Balanced with a punch of mustard, this whole dish is spot on.

Pickled Shallots and Sardines on Blue Cheese Toast

4 slices whole wheat bread

1 can sardines packed in oil or water (your preference), chilled and drained, roughly chopped

1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/3 cup pickled shallots and garlic, thinly sliced

2 tbs. pickling liquid from pickled shallots and garlic

1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Lightly toast the whole wheat bread.  Top each slice with half of the blue cheese crumbles.

Transfer either to a preheated broiler or place in the microwave for about thirty seconds until cheese is bubbling and melting.

Meanwhile, whisk together the pickle juice and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top each cheesy toast slice with sardines, sliced pickles, and a tablespoon or so of the pickle juice mixture.

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Two

21 Jul

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Two

In this week’s CSA, we received half a dozen baby redskin potatoes, a green pepper, two fennel bulbs with fronds attached, a green head of lettuce, a red head of lettuce, a pint of multi-colored cherry tomatoes, a bag of green beans, a small zucchini, two sweet knob onions, and a small cucumber.

We did a pretty good job of using up last week’s ingredients.  In fact, the only thing we didn’t use was the beet tops, which dried out really quickly and I had to toss.  The barley and roasted zucchini in lemon caper butter sauce made use of the zucchini, and it was incredibly sweet and tender.  Naturally, the blueberry jam used the entire pint of blueberries, and has made an appearance every day on a piece of toast or a whole wheat crumpet for me.  We ate a ginormous salad with caesar dressing and loads of CSA vegetables for dinner and then both packed it for lunch the next day.  I will be posting the recipe for some miso glazed beets that I made over the next few days.  It was definitely awesome to use everything up.

I am extremely excited about the variety in this week’s share.  Because we purchased some knob onions at the store this week, we have loads of them.  I have an idea I got from Saveur for how to use some of those up, luckily.  For dinner tonight, we’re making a whole fish with a spin on the fennel frond pesto I posted awhile back.  There will certainly be salads in our future to use up the lettuce and some of the vegetables.  Zak also has plans for a stir fry of some sort.  The variety of the basket puts a lot of options on the table, so I know no matter what we end up doing, I won’t be disappointed!

Blueberry Jam

19 Jul

One of my favorite mid-morning snacks at work is a toasted whole wheat crumpet with something on top – butter, jelly, jam, cream cheese, whatever.  When I saw the blueberries in this week’s CSA share from Geauga Family Farms, I knew some homemade jam would be a really great addition to a crumpet.  Plus, I have a good amount of homemade pectin in the freezer (which, not-so-coincidentally, was made using CSA apples last fall).  I didn’t post the recipe for homemade pectin when I made it, but in the recipe below I included a link to a website that details the process.  It’s very easy – basically, chopping up apples and boiling them, or using apple stems and peels and boiling them.

However, because the strength of the pectin is going to vary greatly from batch to batch in homemade pectin, it makes the jam a bit more of a guessing process.  I used 1 1/2 cups of frozen pectin, but it may take more or less to make your jam set up.  It is certainly more of a trial-and-error process than using store bought pectin and took me a few tests before I got it right.

In the end, though, it was well worth it and not very difficult at all.  The flavors of this jam are simple and straightforward – fresh, sweet blueberries and politely assertive lemon with just a hint of coriander and cinnamon to every bite.  The real star here, of course, is the humble little blueberry.  It’s the predominate flavor, kept interesting by the whisper of lemon and spice in the background.  This is the most successful jam that I’ve produced.  I was so, so happy with how well it gelled.  I now have the utmost faith in my homemade pectin.  I can’t wait to get more apples from the CSA so I can make more homemade pectin (and share the process with you all).  Because more pectin = more delicious homemade jam.

Blueberry Jam

1 pint blueberries

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 – 2 cup(s) homemade pectin, defrosted if frozen

Pinch ground coriander

Pinch ground cinnamon

Place a metal spoon in a glass of water in the freezer.

In a large non-stick sauce pan, add blueberries.  Mash them up using a hand masher until mostly smooth, or to desired consistency.  Add lemon zest and lemon juice.  Turn heat on to medium-high and, continuing to mash, bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in sugar.  Let boil for 3-5 minutes.  Add pectin, starting with one cup, and let boil hard (so stirring it doesn’t interrupt the boil) for 5-8 minutes.

Remove the spoon from the ice water and scoop up some jam.  Let sit and cool to room temperature, continuing to boil the jam (reduce heat slightly if it begins to reduce substantially).  If the jam sets up to a desired consistency at room temperature, remove from heat and proceed to canning.  If it does not set up, add more pectin and boil another 4-5 minutes at a time, continuing to test jam until it sets up to proper consistency.  After the first cup, I added about 1/4 cup at a time and ended up using about 1 1/2 cups of my homemade pectin.

Storage inside of refrigerator for up to one month:  Run jar through dishwasher or place in a 200º oven for 10 minutes.  Ladle the sauce into the jar and seal shut.  Let cool to room temperature and then transfer to refrigerator.  Enjoy.

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.  Ladle the sauce into the jar and seal shut.  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.

Barley and Roasted Zucchini in Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

17 Jul

Pearl barley is a seriously underrated grain.  It’s got a great toothsome texture, absorbs flavors beautifully, and is filling.  It also has loads of dietary fiber, as well as iron and niacin.  Mostly, though, it’s just wholesome and delicious.  This is a very simple grain-based side dish, pumped up with slightly sweet oven-roasted, caramelized zucchini, creamy butter and olive oil, salty caper, and bright and fresh lemon rounded out with some slightly nutty, slightly cheesy Parmesan.  Yum.

Though the pearl barley does take awhile to cook, it’s totally hands off and the active time for this dish clocks in at around 15 minutes, max.  Despite it’s ease, however, it’s really delicious.  And, as a bonus, makes for awesome leftovers because barley reheats particularly well.

Barley and Roasted Zucchini in Lemon Caper Butter Sauce


1 cup pearl barley

6 cups water

1 bay leave

Bring water and bay leaf to a boil over high heat.  Add barley and reduce heat to medium in order to maintain a steady simmer.  Simmer barley for 45 minutes until tender and most of water is absorbed.  Set aside.

Roasted Zucchini:

1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4″ cubes (about 3 cups)

3-4 tbs. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.

 On a tinfoil-lined baking sheet, toss zucchini with olive oil, salt, and pepper until coated.

Transfer to oven and bake 25-30 minutes, tossing a few times to ensure even cooking, until edges are golden brown and zucchini is tender.  Set aside.

Barley and Roasted Zucchini in Lemon Caper Butter Sauce:

Barley, from above

Roasted Zucchini, from above

2 tbs. butter

2 tbs. olive oil

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 tbs. capers

3-4 tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat until butter is melted.  Whisk in lemon juice and capers.  Add barley and zucchini and toss to coat with sauce.  Add a tbs. or two of the cheese and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring frequently, until barley and zucchini are heated through.  Serve immediately topped with remaining cheese.

Pickled Shallots and Garlic

16 Jul

As I was pouring the pickling liquid over the spicy coriander and ginger pickles I posted a bit back, Zak came home from a walk with the dog and asked if I could add some shallots.  Because the volume had been measured already, I couldn’t.  What I could do, however, was pickle up some shallots and a head of garlic separately, using another batch of the same brine.  I mean, I already had the spices out, right?

I’m very glad I made this.  The garlic makes for an excellent snack.  The shallots, sliced or chopped up, work as a really nice topping on all sorts of sandwiches (one of which I’ll be posting shortly).  Similar to the pickled red onions and cucumbers I made previously from Michael Symon’s pickling recipe, these are being quickly devoured.

Pickled Shallots and Garlic

Adapted from Live to Cook by Michael Symon

1 cup shallots, peeled

1 head garlic, peeled

Vinegar – half apple cider vinegar, half rice wine vinegar


Kosher salt

2 tbs. coriander seeds

1 tbs. mustard seeds

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. black peppercorns

2-3 bay leaves

Pack the shallots and garlic in a 1-quart jar and cover with water to come within 1/2″ of the rim.  Pour the water out into a measuring cup.  Note the volume, then pour off half of the water.  Replace it with half apple cider vinegar and half rice wine vinegar.

Pour the vinegar mixture into a nonreactive saucepan.  Add 2 tbs. sugar and 2 tbs. salt for every 3 cups of liquid.  Add the mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Allow the liquid to boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Pour the hot liquid into the jar over the onions.  Stir to evenly distribute the spices.

Screw on the lids and shake a few times.  Let cool to room temperature.  Transfer to refrigerator.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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