Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pasta with Cherry Tomato and Red Pepper

     We truly enjoy pasta in our house. There's nothing finer than a finely crafted pasta dish. If that's what you're looking for, you're probably on the wrong website. I can, however, provide you with a tasty and simple pasta recipe. Our garden has been producing tomatoes and peppers like crazy, so we were looking for ways to use them up. A basic, olive oil-based pasta dish seemed just the thing. It totally was. This is a fresh, light recipe that has a bit of a kick from the red pepper flakes. Give it a try and see what you think. Maybe less oil? Maybe add some shrimp? Get creative. As always, notes are in blue.

Pasta with Cherry Tomato and Red Pepper

  • 1 pound pasta of your choice (don't pick something goofy like giant shells or lasagna noodles)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (insert obvious virgin joke here)
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • shredded Parmesan for topping
  1. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes, until garlic starts to brown.
  3. Add the bell pepper. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Sautee another 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Add the pasta and toss over medium-low heat for 2-3 more minutes to incorporate ingredients. Garnish with Parmesan.
Good times!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pickled Dilled Beans

     First, let me say that I'm not responsible for naming this recipe. Talk to the author of the cookbook. "Pickled Dilled Beans" sounds cumbersome and kind of dumb. Why not just go with "Dill Pickle Beans?" The other way just sounds tortured. If you want a goofy sounding name, how about "Beans, Dilled and Pickled?" Ok, I'm just babbling now. I'd love to tell you how these taste. I have no idea; we just canned them and put them up on the rack. They look very nice. We did a half batch, which is what you see in the directions. You want more, you need to brush up on your multiplication table. Since this is a canning recipe, I once again beg of you to defer to the fine folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips on how not to give everyone the squirts. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Pickled Dilled Beans
via Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh green or yellow beans
  • 3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1/3 cup canning/pickling salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 12 fresh dill sprigs (didn't have these in the house. We went with 3 teaspoons dried dill weed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  1. Sterilize 3 pint jars 
  2. Wash beans, trim stem ends and cut into 4-inch lengths (if your beans were less than 4 inches to start, I guess you'll have to tape them together or something)
  3. Combine vinegar, salt, red pepper and 1 cup water in a stainless steel saucepan (don't put in the dill yet! You're doing that next). Bring to a boil. 
  4. Place 1 clove of garlic and 2 dill sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dill weed) in each of the hot, sterilized pint jars. Pack whole beans tightly in jars (this is where The Wife's freaky little hands come in "handy." She can really get in there and load in those beans). Cover with hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. 
  5. Seal and process jars in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars from the water and let stand, undisturbed, at room temperature for 24 hours (We totally disturbed our jars. We stood right there and told them at length about the state of the economy). Eventually, you should hear a telltale "thunk" noise when the lid locks down. If it doesn't, you can either reprocess them or just put them in the fridge after they've cooled and eat them. Sealed and stored properly, they should last up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Good times!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cabbage Borsch

     As you may already know, we do a lot of canning in our house. We have a fairly abundant garden and are always looking for ways to preserve all those great foods until we really want to eat them. The freezer will only hold so much and there's only so many things that take well to dehydration. That leaves canning. We have exclusively done water bath canning largely due to the fact that I am a big baby and live in fear of leveling the kitchen in a pressure canning incident.

     This summer, we finally gave in. We admitted that not everything should be pickled.

     We set up for pressure canning. Our first attempt was a cabbage soup out of a 41 year old cookbook. I figure if we made it safely through the initial danger of running the pressure canner, the worst that would happen is botulism when we ate the soup. It turned out that my fears were unfounded. At least the pressure canning fears. We still might get botulism when we eat the soup down the line. If you follow the instructions for your canner and in the link provided below, you might be able to keep insurance claims to a minimum. If you don't want to pressure can, simply stop after step 2, though you might want to cook the soup a bit longer. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Cabbage Borsch
via Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cookbook
  • 5 pounds tomatoes
  • 8 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped onion (The Wife just informed me we apparently forgot to add the onion. Whoops.)
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cut into pieces (no specification was made as to type of apple. We used Red Delicious.)
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules (we used the cubes with a ratio of 2 for every 3 cups of water. Feel free to toy with the measures to get the salt fix you crave.)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • dried cayenne peppers (1 per pint jar)
  1. Wash, peel, remove stem end and cores and quarter tomatoes. Use a small spoon to scrape out excess seeds, if f desired (no, it was not desired. You already had us do everything other than declare allegiance to these damned tomatoes.)
  2. In a 4-6 quart kettle or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (that includes the onions. Don't forget the onions like we did and live with the regret). Bring mixture to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle soup into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in pressure canner at 10 pounds. Process pints for 45 minutes, process quarts for 55 minutes. If you're a wuss like me, who is even afraid to open a tube of biscuit dough, you'll wisely spend this time outside behind the safety of a brick wall. IF YOU'RE GOING TO PRESSURE CAN, PLEASE VISIT THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR HOME FOOD PRESERVATION AND READ UP ON THE PROCESS. We don't want you inadvertently remodeling your kitchen or making a needless trip to the emergency room.
Soup's done!
Good times!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot and Sour Soup

     Once again I turn to my trusty copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. This time it's for soup. You can never go wrong with soup. Unless you undercook something and give everybody dysentery. Then I suppose you've gone wrong. You could also spill a scalding hot bowl on your crotch. I suppose that would be wrong, too. OK, you can go wrong with soup. This particular soup is worth the risk. One of my favorite treats at a Chinese restaurant is the hot and sour soup. I am always on the lookout for a recipe that replicates that experience. This does not even come close. Don't let that scare you away. This soup is really tasty and pretty easy to make. We really screwed around with the recipe and were very pleased with the results. If you can manage to keep the sodium down, you've got a really healthy meal. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Hot and Sour Soup
via The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook
  • 3 or 4 dried black mushrooms (as I do not normally engage in witchcraft, I do not normally stock these. We went with a 15-ounce can of straw mushrooms. Keep the liquid if you use the canned!)
  • 1/4 pound lean pork (none on hand. We went with an equal amount of ground turkey)
  • 2 bean curd cakes (that's kind of a nebulous measurement, so we went with a 1 pound block of firm tofu, cut into about 1/2 inch squares)
  • 1 scallion (we used 2 since the garden is overrun with them)
  • 1 15-ounce can stir fry vegetables, drained. We're talking water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, baby corn, sprouts, etc.)
  • 5 cups stock (we used a home made shrimp stock. Feel free to use the stock of your choice)
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid (obviously you're only going to have these if you used the dried mushrooms. If you used the can like we did, just pour in the liquid along with the mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry (none on hand, we used an equal amount of dry vermouth)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (since this was hot and sour soup, we used an equal amount of pique sauce. It was still vinegar based, but had an extra hot pepper kick)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (omitted. There's already enough sodium in here)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (doesn't say what kind. I used a bit of black and about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
  • A few dashes of Tabasco if you want more heat
  • Sesame oil
  1. Soak dried mushrooms. Reserve soaking liquid (or just open can and don't drain it)
  2. Sliver mushrooms, pork and bean curd. Mince scallion. Beat egg lightly. Blend cornstarch and cold water to a paste (we didn't cut the mushrooms at all. We used ground turkey so no slicing there. I decided to simply chop the scallions just to be a bastard).
  3. (The original recipe does not specify what to cook the soup in. I went with a 5-quart pot.) Bring stock and mushroom soaking liquid to a boil. Add pork (or turkey. Or both if you're feeling daring) and mushrooms (if you went with the canned mushrooms, just unceremoniously dump the entire contents of the can into the pot. If you're also using the optional can of stir fry vegetables, it goes in at this point, too) and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 
  4. Add bean curd and simmer, covered, for 3 more minutes.
  5. Stir in sherry (or vermouth), vinegar (or pique), salt (if using. It's your heart; do what you want), soy sauce and pepper. Pour in cornstarch paste to thicken. Stir gently. 
  6. Slowly add beaten egg, stirring gently once or twice (no more than twice! It would be bad. Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light) Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sesame oil and scallions.
    Total protonic reversal.

    Good times!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Braised Eggplant with Bacon and Tomatoes

     I'm forever on the fence about eggplant. On its own, I really want nothing to do with it. I do, however, love The Wife's Eggplant Parmigiana.  The reason I'm going on about eggplant is that our garden is yielding an unprecedented bumper crop of these bad boys. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I consulted my copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook and found an intriguing recipe involving eggplant, bacon and tomato. This recipe was good on a number of different levels. For one thing, it was very easy to make. It called for a few simple ingredients and came together easily. Second, it was packed with flavor. We served it on brown rice and the first thing we both said was that it tasted very much like fried rice you would get in a restaurant. This one is definitely a winner and will grace our table again! As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Braised Eggplant with Bacon and Tomatoes
via The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook

  • 6 bacon strips, cut into 2-inch sections
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and quartered (we didn't peel them because we're lazy. We also cut them into eighths because they were really big). 
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (we also soaked them in water and teaspoon of salt for about half an hour. Then we drained the water. The Wife assures me this is some form of sorcery that removes the "impurities" and "humours" from the eggplant)
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, crushed (there is no such thing as too much garlic. If you want 12 cloves in there, go crazy. I'm definitely using more garlic next time)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  1. Place bacon in a cold pan (we used our enameled cast iron dutch oven), then heat and brown lightly. Do not pour off the fat. Add garlic and stir-fry for a couple minutes.
  2. Add eggplant cubes and stir-fry to coat with the bacon fat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered about 5 minutes, or until eggplant has softened (we left the lid off, because that's what badasses do). Stir once or twice during this time.
  3. Gently stir in tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until eggplant is done, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper (we added the salt as soon as we put in the tomatoes, since this helps to break the tomatoes down a bit). 
  4. Serve over brown rice. Or white rice. Or noodles. Or Cap'n Crunch. Whatever floats your boat. 
UPDATE: Here's a link to the YouTube video for this recipe! You're welcome!

Good times!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Too Damned Easy Pickled Cabbage

     Ah, the humble cabbage. Really, there's not a whole lot I can say other than to head into a bunch of cabbage fart jokes. That's too obvious, so we'll get to it. Fermentation is all the rage right now and everybody is fermenting all sorts of things. Unfortunately, I don't follow current trends (as anybody who has seen my wardrobe or listened to my music can attest). I am also lazy and impatient. Fermenting takes time. If I want sauerkraut, I would have to put in the time. That's not happening. Instead, I made this pickled mixture. It's got a nice tang, some big flavor and a bit of a snap. There's room for interpretation, too. This stuff makes a great side dish, or cut up some smoked sausage and mix it in for a gastric bludgeon! By no means do you actually have to boil can this stuff. If you plan on eating it right away, skip steps 4 and 5 and serve it up. I think the extra time gives it some extra flavor. Plus, I like looking at the cans. As always, notes are in blue.

Too Damned Easy
Pickled Cabbage

  • 2 medium heads cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons
  • 6 banana peppers, sliced into 1/2-inch wide rings (if you want to add a bit of spice, use Hungarian Wax peppers instead)
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered and sliced
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cider vinegar (make sure it has 5% acidity)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Toss cabbage, peppers and onion in a large bowl. Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
  2. In a large, non-reactive pot, combine vinegar, water, peppercorns, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Heat to a boil.
    We've discussed the issue with non-reactive pots. 
  3. Add the vegetables and stir for 3-5 minutes (you want everything mixed in the vinegar. You don't want to overcook the veggies though. They should still have some snap when you can them).
  4. With a slotted spoon, load vegetables into quart jars. Top with the hot liquid, leaving 1/4 inch head space (make sure to load the peppercorns, pepper flakes and fennel seeds in there, too. Nothing is wasted here).
  5. Seal jars with a canning lid and ring and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. As always, refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation to see how to not accidentally kill anyone. Properly sealed jars should be good for around a year (don't quote me on that. If you make yourself sick, we never met). 
Good times!