Monthly Archives: July 2010

bread & butter pickles


Confession time: I don’t like cucumbers.

Okay, not a very thrilling confession, but I’m disappointed by my palate on this one. I *want* to want a zingy cucumber salad or enjoy a refreshing cucumber-based cocktail. But the only way I like cucumbers is pickled. And dill pickles are fine, sure, but I tend to crave spicy, zangy bread and butter pickles.

Thus, I could hardly contain my joy when Deb posted an easy refrigerator b&b pickles recipe. First, I love almost anything that comes out of the kitchen that is smitten. Secondly… really, I just pretty much love anything I’ve made from SK (with the exception of the raspberry gratin, but even that was delicious once chilled and scooped over oatmeal). Really, she doesn’t mess around.

I found the perfect little knobbly cukes at the end of July and made a batch right away, but waited a few weeks to post. I wanted to see how these little guys did over time, and, of course, they’ve only improved. Fridge pickles seems so… summery to me!

Bread & Butter Pickles

1 pound cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick — “pickling” or kirby cucumbers work best here
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Diamond Kosher salt [Updated: Why Diamond? Read this first.<– link to] or ~1/8 c. Morton kosher salt
3/4 cups sugar (see note above)
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (if ground, use 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Mix well. Cover the mixture with ice. Let stand at room temperature for at least two hours. In a pot, bring sugar, vinegar and spices to a boil.

Drain cucumbers and onions. Add to vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. You can store the pickles in an airtight container for up to three weeks in the fridge. They will begin tasting pickled in just a couple hours.

Note: These are wonderful as-is, but next time I’m going to cut down on the onion and add a chile or two to add a little kick. Try it!

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Summer, Vegetables

Double cookie dough ice cream

Sounds too good to be true, huh?

I love cookie dough icecream, but the thing that bugs me is that it isn’t cookie dough-y enough. The vanilla base is often blah. And I am not the only person who thinks this! Lucky for us, Annie at Annie’s Eats put a cookie dough icecream and bits of cookie dough together to form … bliss. A strong force the likes of which has not been seen in my freezer before. Captain Planet?!

I was not so impressed with David Lebovitz’s cookie dough recipe. I KNOW, RIGHT?? How could I not love it?!? Call me heathen. But alas… I think it can be improved. Which gives me all the more reason to make this again, soon. :)

Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

For the cookie dough: (alternately, use pre-made cookie dough from the store or your favorite recipe)
5 T. salted butter, melted (or unsalted butter plus ¼ tsp. salt)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips

For the ice cream:
3 T. unsalted butter
2 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
4 egg yolks
Pinch of coarse salt
2 t. vanilla extract
1½ c. whole milk (can use 1-1/3 c. skim milk and fill to 1-1/2 c. mark with cream)
3/4 c. mini chocolate chips

To make the cookie dough, stir together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth.  Mix in the flour and vanilla; make sure the dough is room temperature, and then add chocolate chips.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm. (It will seem too buttery, but is better once it’s been refrigerated.)

To make the ice cream, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Continue heating, stirring often, until the butter is a deep golden brown color, being careful not to burn it.  Whisk in the heavy cream and heat until simmering.  Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and the egg yolks until pale and fluffy.  Once the cream mixture is warm, add a small amount of it to the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Slowly whisk in the rest of the cream.  Mix in the salt.  Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and heat until just slightly thickened and the temperature reads 170-175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.  Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla extract and the whole milk.  Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Chop the disk of cookie dough into small chunks.  With about one minute left in the maker, throw in the chocolate chips and the chunks of cookie dough just to mix in.  Store in the freezer in an airtight container until firm.

Source: cookie dough from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, ice cream adapted from Joy the Baker

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Filed under Desserts, Summer

Wordless Wednesday, one day late

lily and hydrangeas

Not food, but completely gorge… as in “gorgeous”… and grown outside my front door with very little assistance from me. I heart nature.

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Filed under Just a Thought

introducing the newest family member

Meet Oscar! He’s a spunky, scrawny little orange and white tabby.

So shy! His mom was abandoned at the shelter about 3 weeks before he was born. He’s only 2 months old right now, but very social. (And cute.)

… but he’ll hardly stay still long enough for me to take a picture!


Filed under Just a Thought

Kohlrabi and apple salad

I’m still on the quest to try new foods, and since beets were such a big hit with my tastebuds, I figured that little alien bulbs with leafy greens kohlrabi would be a good next step.

small aliens with wavy green hair

The word kohlrabi supposedly means cabbage-turnip in German (I think I read that on the interest somewhere). It’s got a pleasant crisp and zing, and reminds me of broccoli. These little suckers looked pretty daunting, so I turned to the trusty Googles to help me clean them up but found no definitive guide. I found it easiest to cut off the “tenticles” near the bulb, and then cut off the tough bottom part where green meets white.

kohlrabis, in various stages of undress.

I then proceeded to peel the thick, bitter skin [which can be green or purple (!)] until I had a fragrant, white little bulb smiling up at me. I julienned all 3 of them, along with an apple, and thoughtfully munched on alternating matchsticks of  kohlrabi and apple, tangy and earthy and then sweet and crisp.

I googled again and found this recipe. My julienned pieces found their fate!  Then I ate half the bowl in one setting.

Verdict: Yummy, crispy, fresh, slightly bitter, and certainly unique.  Honestly, I think I prefer a very similar broccoli salad. Though I wonder if half-broccoli, half-kohlrabi in a big batch of this salad might be the perfect side for spicy smoked pork butt when my parents visit next month?

Kohlrabi Salad
adapted from Dianasaur Dishes

3 medium kohlrabis
1 large apple (I used Gala or Fuju, I think)
4 slices bacon, cooked
1/2 cup fresh peas
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. vinegar
2 T. honey

Clean and julienne the kohlrabis and apple. Crumble the bacon; admire the cute little peas. Toss these together in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, add the cream and vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes. Whisk together, then whisk in the honey. Pour over the other ingredients and toss lightly. Add a little ground black pepper to taste (optional).


Filed under 30 min. or less, Side dishes, Summer, Vegetables

Chicken P-P-P-P Pockets

No, I don’t have a stutter and have no desire to make fun of anyone who does- but titling this post “Chicken pesto provolone puff pastry pockets” seemed ridonk.

I made the pesto with walnuts and with basil fresh from the garden. If I was really impressive, I’d tell you all about butchering the chicken and rolling out the from-scratch puff pastry… but the poultry is from the farmer’s market, and the pastry is from a box in the freezer section.

Not a real “home-made meal,” I know. I felt like I was cheating, like I was pulling a little Sandra Lee, while I put these together. (The only difference is I wasn’t drinking a pitcher of vodka- ba-dum CHING!)

Getting the puff pastry out to thaw – which takes 40-45 minutes- does require a bit of planning, which makes this a later-weeknight meal or one for the weekends.  If you have the time and patience, you could even make your own. OR, you can rush the pastry and rip it apart while trying to unfold it, then have to patch it together with water and flour (-and of course, all I had was wheat so not only did it have seams, it had patches). I recommend pouring a glass of wine and practicing patience.

But even though I used boxed pastry and a few other grocery staples, the meal was filling and tasty, something of comfort with a hint of summer in it. And eventually, I WILL make puff pastry, danggit.

Just not this week.

Chicken 4P Pockets

I like to serve  with a light pasta-veggie salad in the summer, or pasta and marinara for a heartier option.

1 sheet puff pastry dough
2 large halved or 4 small chicken breasts
3 T. oil, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 t. each oregano and thyme
1 c. pesto
4 oz. provolone cheese
~1/4 c. grated parmesan

Thaw puff pastry according to direction. While thawing, heat 1 T. oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the chicken breasts with the remaining oil and then season with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Brown chicken in skillet, about 3 minutes on each side, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Heat oven to 400. On a lightly floured surface, carefully unfold pastry sheet. Roll out lightly to flatten seams and even out edges. Facing the sheet with the long edge of the pastry going left to right (not up and down), cut the sheet down the middle to create two rectangles (don’t worry about separating/moving the sheet). Then in one of the upper corners of one rectangle, make a diagonal cut across the rectangle to the opposite corner. Repeat with the other rectangle. You will end up with 4 long triangle shaped sections of pastry. (See the picture above if you have any confusion, and ignore my misshapen mess of pastry!)

Divide the pesto among the 4 triangles and spread, staying away from the edges a bit. Grate a bit of parmesan on top of the pesto. On the fat part of each triangle, lay down a 1 oz. slice of provolone, and top it with a piece of chicken. Carefully wrap the pastry around the chicken and cheese, careful to press down and seal the edges a bit. Space on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and chicken juices run clear when cut.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Chicken, Main dishes

The joys of homeownership…

I had a few posts and recipes brainstormed and ready to go/try last week, but then the joys of homeownership showed up- in my basement- to haunt me. I walked downstairs late evening one night last week, and stepped into 1-1/2 inches of water. Lovely.  After the initial bailing and cleaning, the water kept coming in… and it was evident that leaving the house or sleeping for more than an hour at a time was not an option. It was soon discovered that the our main water line was leaking, and the only immediate option was to turn off the water to the house.  Doh.

And then I drove 10 hours west to see my wonderful father- and sister-in-law, and to feed the National Guard unit that N belongs to. Great to see so many friends and we had a lovely time.

But… I still have no water. Which means no showering, watering the garden, washing said garden produce, or doing dishes. And the plumber’s initial estimate is Saturday at the earliest, with next Monday the more likely option.

Until then, it’s things that I can eat straight out of the fridge or warm up and eat. No boiling, mixing, baking, frying, or broiling anytime soon.   So I’ll see you… when I see you.

For now, here is a lovely strawberry that was waiting for me when I returned from my whirlwind roadtrip:

Sometimes the smallest things can be huge sources of cheering-up.

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Filed under house

Sourdough pita bread


Ever done Amish Friendship Bread- those little ziploc baggies that you mush for days and then add milk, sugar, flour, and still somehow end up with 4 more baggies AND a loaf of bread?  I made a sourdough starter out of one of those baggies, and it’s fantastic. I have been feeding and baking it for a few months and we’re getting some awesome sourness.

However, I’m getting a little sick of plain sourdough loaves.  We’ve done hamburger and brat buns, and I wanted something more. Enter the pita.

I used this website for the recipe, but upon baking the first pita, I found the method wasn’t working for me. Instead, I grabbed my trusty Baking With Julia; that method worked well for me, and it’s the one I’ve included here.

If you don’t have a sourdough starter just laying around, no fears! You can make pita, too! It just won’t have that trademark “sourdough” flavor. It’s easy to make a starter using the recipe from Baking With Julia, as posted here by Emeril and FoodNetwork (follow the instructions from the beginning through the 30m-8h rest).

Sourdough Pita Bread

1 cup (approx. 7 oz.) sourdough starter
1 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/3 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. flour, any mix of white and wheat, plus extra

Combine starter, water, oil, and salt into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well-combined. Add the flour, tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough pulls away from the bowl sides.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is stiff and sticky. Add flour by the tablespoon if the dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, rotate dough in the bowl so that all sides are covered in a thin layer of oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 portions and roughly form each piece into a ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  Roll each ball into rounds about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 inches thick. If the dough resists rolling out, let it rest for 10 more minutes. Cover the rounds with a towel and let rest 15 minutes until puffy.

Preheat the griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and lightly oil the griddle. Bake 1 rolled-out circle at a time on the griddle, cooking for 15 to 20 seconds before turning the bread over gently. Cook for another minute or until big bubbles appear. Turn the bread again and cook until it balloons fully. Pressing a towel on those areas where bubbles have formed will push air into the flat areas. The breads should bake for no more than 3 minutes. Lightly brush the skillet with oil after every bread.  Pita is best the day it is made, but it can be wrapped airtight and frozen for 1 month.

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Filed under Breads, Clean Eating

Basil-Walnut Pesto

My basil has been attempting to take over my entire garden. Okay, exaggeration… but it was looking quite fierce compared to the nearby tomato plants. I went out on Sunday to prune it, and ended up bringing in nearly four cups of basil leaves! Insane!

I was far too lazy to bike to the store and pay a stupidly-high price for mediocre pine nuts, so instead I toasted some walnuts and put together this lovely pesto. Delish with chicken, pasta, on baguette or other french bread, for crostata, or even on whole-wheat Ritz crackers with a little extra sprinkle of grated parmesan. [Puttin’ on the Ritz? Guilty as charged.]

Basil-Walnut Pesto
adapted from the lovely Elise at Simply Recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To toast nuts: Set oven to 400 degrees. Coarsely chop nuts, and spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 3-4 minutes, then shake the nuts around on the pan. Do this two or three times, and be sure to take them out before they smell like they’re burning!

Combine the basil and walnuts, and pulse a few times in a food processor.  Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese, fresh black pepper, and a generous pinch of [kosher!] salt, and pulse again until blended.  Can be served immediately, but it’s really good if chilled in a tupperware or covered bowl in the fridge for a few hours, just to let the flavors really blend.


Filed under 30 min. or less, Condiments, etc., Pasta

Adult chicken nuggets

I’m almost embarrassed to be posting this recipe.  It’s easy, quick, customizable– a no-brainer. No need for a recipe card or step-by-step instructions.

But these are way good- so good, in fact, that I am embarassed to say we devoured them before I even thought to take an ‘after’ picture. They were inhaled straight off the cookie sheet, dipped in a little ranch with our fingers and eaten standing up, hovering over the stove. That’s how good.

Plus, this recipe is a good reason to share the three tips that I’ve found will dress up any bread-crumb breading and make it instantly devour-able:

  1. Use good bread. Speaking of a no-brainer… but seriously, Wonder Bread has little to no flavor. Its only redeeming quality is its soft spongy texture, which is utterly lost when used as bread crumbs.  Forgo the bland white breads and use a bread with some flavor, some guts, a little kick. I freeze the “butts” from our weekly loaves of 7-grain honey wheat since they’re a little too dry for sandwiches, and run them through the food processor when I need crumbs.
  2. Kosher salt. Sea salt, shmee shmalt. (Say that 5 times fast!) Sea salt is all the rage, and for good reasons. But have ya heard of koshering meat? There’s a reason why Jewish & gentile women alike cover large hunks of animal flesh with a crust of kosher salt- because it’s delicious. I love the crunchy boldness of the larger, flakier kosher salt on any breaded object.
  3. Parmesan cheese. You don’t need a lot. Don’t think of it as cheese… think of it more as an herb, a seasoning, a subtle flavor to impart on your tastebuds. It’s like a tiny little kiss on your tongue with every bite. Mmmmm.

This recipe feeds two [hungry] adult people, but obviously can be doubled or tripled for large amounts of nugget goodness. Leftovers are fantastic in the oven and microwave!

Adult chicken nuggets

2 chicken breasts, de-boned and skinned
1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 T. kosher salt
a goodly amount of fresh ground black pepper
1 t. each thyme, minced parsley, and oregano (leaves, not powder)
a couple dashes of cayenne (optional)
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the chicken up into ‘nuggets’ (aka cubes).

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the chicken and olive oil.  Or, rub the spices straight onto the chicken breasts and let sit for 10-20 minutes before breading (see first picture). Then mix the remaining dry ingredients together.

Cover the chicken pieces in the crumb mixture, 2 or 3 cubes at a time. Place them on a baking sheet, and be sure that the sides aren’t touching.

Once all the pieces are breaded and sheeted, drizzle a couple of drops of oil on each piece of chicken (it makes them crispier). You could also try spraying with cooking spray, though my guess is that the olive oil will taste better. (I have a small spray-bottle with some light oil in it and this works fabulously.)

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes; flip pieces over with a spatula and bake for another 4 or 5 minutes. Dip in dressing of choice and devour. Careful not to burn your tongue.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Chicken, Main dishes