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Pickled Red Okra

Red okra. I saw this somewhere and it sparked an interest. I made a couple of jars of pickled okra last year, and I entered one in competition at the State Fair. I had some winners, but my okra wasn’t one of them. I tried it, and I thought it was good; but I’m not a pickled okra “expert”, so…. How can I get the judges’ attention? How about some RED okra?!

I followed the basic recipe found here:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/

Our State Fair requires that the recipe source follow established and tested guidelines for submissions, and this is the site specified. I broke down the brine ratios for a small batch: 2 cups water, 2 cups white vinegar, and a little over 3-1/2 tablespoons of kosher (or pickling) salt, brought to a boil.

Into each prepared pint jar, I packed the cleaned and trimmed okra, then added a fresh, whole garlic clove, a couple small springs of fresh dill, and I eyeballed around 1/4 teaspoon each of dill seed, yellow mustard seed, and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Red okra packed in jars with flavorings.

Meanwhile, I had prepared my canner, jar lids and rings, and utensils.

Canner coming to a boil, brine, and lids.

To the jars of okra, I added the hot brine, leaving 1/2″ head space. I cleaned the rims, added the lids and tightened the rings.

I processed the jars for 10 minutes.

After processing, I removed the jars from the canner and made sure the rings were tight. Now, they will rest 24 hours. I have already observed the lids creating the “ping” sound for sealing. So, tomorrow, I will remove the rings, wash the jars, and store them in my pantry. I have one for competition and one to eat, after I see what the judges’ think (October). Fingers crossed.

I can already see that the color of the okra has faded and colored the brine. (See top photo) Not as striking, but hopefully still eye-catching!

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Pickled Green Beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

I didn’t take a bunch of “process” photos, but I made 2 pint jars of pickled green beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”. I think Dilly Beans sounds kind of silly…although, it is quicker to say than pickled green beans. Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a try, because I got some green beans on sale and they looked pretty good. Plus, I have some dill in my garden that needed trimming back. I didn’t measure my beans, but I’m assuming it was a maybe a pound to a pound and a half?

Dilly Beans

Fresh green beans, trimmed both ends. Enough to firmly pack (2) pint jars.

1/8 c. kosher or pickling salt

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, lightly crushed

2 fresh dill heads/fronds

1 t. mustard seeds

(optional: pinch of red pepper flakes per jar)

1-1/2 c. white vinegar

3/4 c. water

Directions

Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and mustard seeds in a small, non-reactive sauce pan (like stainless steel). Bring to a boil and reserve, keeping hot. Prepare a water bath canner with enough water to cover jars by an inch or two. Prepare two pint jars, lids, and screw rings. Divide the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes (if using) between the two jars. Trim the green beans to fit the jars vertically, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch space from jar’s rim. Pack the jar tightly, so the green beans won’t float.

Ladle the hot brine over the beans, trying to distribute the mustard seeds evenly. Bring the brine up to 1/4″ below the jar’s rim and covering the beans. Use a skewer or a knife to make sure there are no trapped air bubbles and add more brine, if necessary. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, wipe the threads and rim. Place a prepared lid on each jar and install the screw ring to “finger tight”. Add to boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Leave jars in the hot water, off heat for another 5 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel on a counter top and leave for 24 hours. When cool enough to touch, tighten lids. If lids do not “pop” to indicate seal, store in refrigerator. If properly sealed, remove the rings and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. (I would wait at least 2 weeks and maybe a month before opening.)

I had a little leftover brine and the bean ends that I trimmed to make the beans fit the jars, so I put them in a plastic container and let them sit on the counter for a few minutes, then I popped them in the fridge. I’ll have them as a snack in a few days.

 

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Making Bagels

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So, I’ve made bagels once before, but it’s been awhile. For some reason, I just felt like making a batch. Who knew that today (February 9th) is National Bagel Day?! Was there something subliminal going on there? These won’t be baked until the following day, though…but I made the dough and shaped them on National Bagel Day. That still counts, right? Right.

To give credit, where credit is due, I am using a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by way of a website: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/. The recipe makes 12 bagels. It begins with a “sponge”, which is similar to a sourdough starter, except all the ingredients are fresh. About half of the flour is used with all of the water and half of the yeast. After a couple of hours, the sponge is combined with the rest of the ingredients to make the dough. After the dough is made, kneaded, and portioned, it is allowed to rise. Once formed, the bagels relax briefly and then are refrigerated overnight. The process is finished in the morning.

BAGELS

Sponge:

1 t. Instant yeast

4 c. Bread flour

2-1/2 c. Water

Dough:

1 t. Instant yeast (original recipe calls for 1/2 t., but mine has been in the fridge for awhile, so….)

3-3/4 c. Bread flour

2-3/4 t. salt (why not 3? I don’t know, but I followed directions here.)

2 t. malt powder (not malted milk powder) You could substitute a tablespoon of malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar, according to the recipe. (I used a tablespoon of molasses.)

1 T. baking soda (to add to boiling water for cooking)

Corn meal for dusting the baking sheet

Toppings, if desired. Poppy seeds, dehydrated chopped onion or garlic, salt, sesame seeds, etc. (I don’t do sesame, due to an allergy in the family.) I made my own mixture for Everything Bagels.*

Day or Evening Before

Make the sponge. Combine the ingredients and mix to combine. It will be wet and sticky. Cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours.

Sponge for making bagels

Sponge for making bagels

The sponge has risen!

The sponge has risen!

Make the dough. After rising, add 3 cups flour, yeast, salt, and malt powder (or substitute) to the dough and mix as well as you can.

Turn out on a clean, floured surface and begin kneading, using the last 3/4 c. flour to keep from sticking, incorporating it as you go. Knead for 10 minutes.

Kneading the dough.

Kneading the dough.

Immediately after kneading, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (about 4-1/2 oz). My scale is broken, so I had to eyeball it. Line a sheet pan with parchment and lightly spray with non-stick spray. Shape the portions into balls and put them on the cooking sheet. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel or damp paper towels and let rest for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough and shape into balls.

Divide the dough and shape into balls.

After resting, use your thumb to punch a hole in the center of each dough ball, and rotate the dough around to widen the hole. Try to maintain even thickness all the way around the bagel.

Shaping the dough.

Shaping the dough.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You are done until tomorrow morning!

Ready for the refrigerator, overnight.

Ready for the refrigerator, overnight.

The Next Morning

Preheat the oven to 500F. Prepare a baking sheet with a sprinkle of corn meal. Bring a large, preferably wide, pot of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. This helps the dough brown properly, when baked. The original recipes from many, many years ago, called for lye. For some reason, that is frowned upon these days. (Seriously, don’t do it.) While the water is boiling, drop bagels in, one at a time, until the surface is covered. Boil for one minute, flip over carefully, boil for another minute.

Boiling the bagels.

Boiling the bagels.

Place the boiled bagels on the baking sheet and, if using toppings, apply them at this point, while bagels are still moist. Continue until all bagels have been boiled and topped.

I did half "Everything" and half plain.

I did half “Everything” and half plain.

Place the bagels in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450F, rotate the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool…until you can’t stand it any more! Note: my bagels took about 18 minutes, actually.

Done! How long can I wait? Not long!

Done! How long can I wait? Not long!

My “Everything Bagel Topping” without sesame seeds: I used about two tablespoons each of Roasted, salted sunflower seeds, minced dehydrated garlic, chopped dehydrated onions, and then about a tablespoon of poppy seeds. I used a mortar and pestle to break up the big stuff a little before adding the poppy seeds.

My "Everything Bagel Topping", no sesame seeds.

My “Everything Bagel Topping”, no sesame seeds.

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Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Rice and Gravy.

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Rice and Gravy.

Fairly regularly, my grocery store has lamb shoulder chops on sale for around $5 per lb. Personally, I love a good medium-rare lamb chop. Mint jelly? Okay, but not necessary. Shoulder chops, though, aren’t the nice meat lollipop that the regular chops are, and probably not as tender. That is likely the reason why most of the recipes I see for the shoulder chops call for braising.

Braising is basically browning meat, deglazing the pan with some kind of liquid, adding some additional liquid to come about halfway up the meat, covering and simmering on “low” for usually a couple of hours. Maybe longer, depending on the size and cut of meat. This works best with cuts that have some bone, cartilage, and/or fat and that tend to be tougher cuts, like beef chuck roast or pork butt. You wouldn’t want to braise something that is already tender, like a filet mignon or ribeye. Also, additional herbs, spices and vegetables are often added to compliment meats with a stronger flavor profile. Milder flavors would be overpowered.

The lamb shoulder chops that I started with were about 1-1/2 lbs total; three chops, fairly thin. I salted and peppered them, while a tablespoon of olive oil heated over medium-high heat in a deep skillet that has a cover (for use later).

Browning lamb shoulder chops.

Browning lamb shoulder chops.

I browned the meat on both sides and then removed it from the pan. The temperature was a little hot, so I moved the pan off heat and added a few crushed and peeled garlic cloves. After a minute or so, I added a broken up stalk of celery and a handful of little carrots and returned the pan to the heat again.

Some garlic cloves and veggies for flavor.

Some garlic cloves and veggies for flavor.

After the veggies had browned a little, I deglazed the pan with about 3/4 of a 12 oz bottle of homemade hard apple cider. (You could use regular apple cider, a commercial hard cider, apple juice, or dry white wine. Added a teapsoon of beef base (or 1 beef bouillon cube).

A bottle of hard cider and some beef base.

A bottle of hard cider and some beef base.

Next, I tossed in a sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of parsley, and about 6 or 8 juniper berries. I love juniper berries in braised meat dishes, but if you don’t have any, you don’t need to make a special trip to the store for them. It’s okay to skip them.

The next step is to add enough water to make sure the liquid comes about halfway up the sides of the meat, but don’t cover it. Bring the liquid to a good simmer and lower the heat to just maintain a light simmer.

Liquid brought to good level; let the simmer begin!

Liquid brought to good level; let the simmer begin!

Cook until the meat is “fall off the bone” tender…depending on the thickness of the cut, an hour or so, more or less. Mine were pretty tender in an hour. I turned the chops in the liquid after about half an hour. If you were doing these in a Crock Pot, I would do the browning through deglazing on the stove and the put everything into the Crock Pot on a high setting for 2 to 3 hours.

After a little less than an hour.

After a little less than an hour.

After cooking the meat, I removed it from the liquid. I kept the carrots and celery, because I like them, but you can discard them, if you prefer.

Remove meat from the liquid.

Remove meat from the liquid.

They could also be blended back into the liquid after straining and removing the fat, to help thicken the gravy. So, I strained the liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove small solids, herbs, etc.

Refrigerate to solidify the fat.

Refrigerate to solidify the fat.

Strain the liquid.

Strain the liquid.

The liquid went into the refrigerator for a couple of hours, to chill. The fat will turn solid and can be easily lifted from the surface.

Remove the fat.

Remove the fat.

Okay…after a couple of hours in the fridge, I was ready to bring things back together for dinner. First, I decided to add the carrots and celery back to the gravy, so I put those in a small pot.

Adding gravy back to the veggies.

Adding gravy back to the veggies.

The gravy had congealed, so I microwaved it for one minute, to make it pourable. I added that to the veggies and used the immersion blender to combine it all, until smooth.

Blending the gravy to make it smooth.

Blending the gravy to make it smooth.

Then I added a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch to about a cup of cold water, while the gravy heated on the stove. When the gravy began to simmer, I added the cornstarch slurry.

Making a cornstarch slurry.

Making a cornstarch slurry.

After that thickened a bit, I added the meat to the gravy. Next, I added enough water to the gravy, so that I could simmer all of the meat in it.

Simmering the slightly thickened gravy and the meat together to heat through.

Simmering the slightly thickened gravy and the meat together to heat through.

Once  it was all simmering, I moved it to a burner on “low”, to maintain a slow simmer. I set a timer for 15 minutes to give the meat time to heat through and the gravy time to complete any additional thickening. Served with rice (See top photo). One note: watch for small bones! I had a few that were easily spotted, but I did have one fragment that was about the size of a grain of rice. This was, however, delicious! Enjoy!

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Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits…MMM!

I have used the following recipe with great success and it’s very simple. I highly recommend it and give credit where credit is due. Please note the copyright included below and do not copy, forward, or print any of the contents without it!

>>>Recipe: Classic 3-Ingredient Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish

Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 12 min | Yield: About 6 to 12 biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cold soft, winter wheat, self-rising Southern flour (like White Lily brand)
  • 1/4 cup very cold butter, shortening or lard
  • 3/4 cup cold real buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Coat a 10 inch cast iron skillet with additional shortening or oil and place into the oven for 5 minutes. Put the flour into a bowl and cut the very cold butter into cubes and toss in the flour. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until it is crumbly. Add buttermilk and use a fork to mix very lightly. Dough will be very shaggy.

Put a bit of additional flour on the countertop and scoop dough out. Sprinkle a small amount of flour over the top and gently push together to form a rectangle. Do not overhandle the dough. Take the short sides of the rectangle and fold them in toward the middle, turn the dough, gently press down into a rectangle again and repeat. Repeat this folding once more and pat into desired thickness, usually about an inch. This folding creates flaky layers in the biscuits.

Using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a small juice glass, cut out into rounds, taking care not to twist the cutter and gently gather scraps for the last biscuits. Transfer biscuits to the prepared skillet or baking pan and bake at 500 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown on top and cooked through.

Cook’s Notes: This recipe uses self-rising, Southern soft wheat flour. Do not use regular all purpose flour.

To Freeze: Prepare as above, except set down parchment on or butter a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Once you’ve cut out the biscuits lay them out on the pan, freeze until they are set and then transfer to a freezer bag. To bake, reduce oven temp to 375 degrees F, and bake until browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes more or less, checking at 22.

Herbed Biscuit Variation: Add up to 1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped herbs. Good choices include sage, chives, parsley, dill, thyme, or a combination. Reduce to about 2 teaspoons max if using dried herbs. Make biscuits a smaller tea size for a potluck, church supper or a party and fill with Chutney Chicken Salad.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com<<<          http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2008/10/perfect-buttermilk-biscuits.html#axzz3hsC3wqoy

Mmmm...cheesy deliciousness!

Mmmm…cheesy deliciousness!

Now, my variation is to add a scant half teaspoon of garlic powder and a half cup of fine shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the flour and mix well, AFTER cutting in the butter and BEFORE adding the buttermilk. (You could add some parsley or chives, but my kids would refuse them if they had green specks, so I didn’t.)

In the oven.

In the oven.

And I brush the biscuits with melted garlic butter when they come out of the oven.

Done! Garlic buttered!

Done! Garlic buttered!

Great to go with dinner! Enjoy!

Oh YEAH, Babe!

Oh YEAH, Babe!

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Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

Pesto Bechamel Lasagna with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

I decided to create this lasagna after having seen similar ingredients used in a different dish. I thought,”Ooh, that would make a great lasagna!”. So, I picked up a few ingredients at the grocery store that I didn’t already have on hand and I sat down and wrote the recipe.

Most of the ingredients for the lasagna.

Most of the ingredients for the lasagna.

As I worked my way through the recipe, I tweaked it to follow what I actually found while making the dish. A couple of observations: I had three layers and no problems. I used an 11″x13″ baking dish and I had to break a few noodles to fill in some space where whole noodles would not fit…no problem. You could use a smaller dish and make more layers, but make sure you leave some room at the top, so that the sauce won’t bubble out while cooking. Also, I started with 8oz of mozzarella and upped it to 12oz, because I ran out and opened another bag. On the other hand, I didn’t quite use all of the parmesan cheese. Cheese should be to your liking. Additionally, I used cottage cheese, instead of ricotta, because I don’t care for ricotta. To me, it’s just to dense and pastey. The cottage cheese is lighter and creamy. I bought a one pound container and used a little over half. The toasted pine nuts were a terrific addition. You could skip them…I know that they are expensive, but a few tablespoons really make a big difference!

So good!!!

So good!!!

Toasting pine nuts...carefully!

Toasting pine nuts…carefully!

I also made some fettucine alfredo for my kids and had a little extra alfredo sauce, so I drizzled a little on the top of my serving. It wasn’t really necessary, but it looked nice. I didn’t have any leftover pesto bechamel, but if I had, I would have used it for a little drizzle. Finally, I chopped whole artichoke bottoms into a medium dice.

Chopping canned artichoke bottoms.

Chopping canned artichoke bottoms.

You could use hearts, if you like, but sometimes you get a fibrous leaf or two…no big deal, but maybe not the best idea for guests. And I don’t think you would want to use “marinated” artichokes…just plain, canned. My wife thanked me for leaving out mushrooms…she has lost her taste for them recently, for some reason. But, in my head, I was thinking how good some sautéed mushrooms would have been! I hope you’ll try this recipe! If you do, leave me a comment on what you think of the recipe…and enjoy!

Pesto & Artichoke Béchamel Lasagna

(Using “No Boil” Noodles)

Ingredients:

1 box “No Boil” Lasagna Noodles

1 small jar prepared Pesto

1 12oz bag shredded Mozzarella (or more, if you like)

1 8oz bag shredded Parmesan

1 container small curd Cottage Cheese (or Ricotta)

1 can Artichoke Bottoms, drained and chopped medium

2 T. Pine Nuts, toasted (for garnish)

For the Béchamel:

2 c. Half’n’Half

1 c. 1% Milk

1 small Shallot, chopped fine (or sub. sweet onion and a garlic clove)

3 T. Butter

3 T. all-purpose Flour

2 c. Vegetable Stock

Pinch of Salt

 

Directions:

Make the béchamel. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a sauce pan. Sauté shallot for 2 minutes, whisk in Flour, whisk until the Flour and Butter are well combined. Add Half’n’Half and Milk. Increase heat and bring to a simmer and allow to thicken/reduce for a few minutes. Add vegetable stock and continue to simmer for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in jar of Pesto.

Roux

Roux

Bechamel

Bechamel

Pesto Bechamel

Pesto Bechamel

Assemble the Lasagna: Cover the bottom of an 11”x13” baking dish with Béchamel. Cover the béchamel with Lasagna Noodles and cover with Béchamel.

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Start with pesto bechamel.

Dot the surface with small spoonsful of Cottage Cheese (or ricotta). Next, spread a layer of Mozzarella Cheese and follow with a light layer of Parmesan. Evenly sprinkle chopped Artichokes. Repeat with another layer and then finish with Béchamel and Cheeses.

Lasagna noodles and toppings.

Lasagna noodles and toppings.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375F for 50 minutes.

Baked for 50 minutes, covered.

Baked for 50 minutes, covered.

After another 10 minutes, uncovered.

After another 10 minutes, uncovered. Garnished with pine nuts.

Remove foil and put under a broiler for a couple of minutes to brown a bit and bubble the cheese on top (or bake additional 10 minutes). Allow to set up for a couple of minutes while toasting the Pine Nuts in a small frying pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes…move frequently and do not burn! Sprinkle Pine Nuts evenly over the lasagna, cut into squares and serve.

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Lobster Spaghetti

Lobster Spaghetti

Lobster Spaghetti

For Valentine’s Day recently, Whole Foods had a promotion to give a free lobster tail with certain steak purchases. Well, since my wife is allergic to all types of shellfish, the lobster tail was NOT part of the Valentine’s Day Dinner. So I had a REALLY nice lunch, a couple of days later!

Start by boiling spaghetti according to package directions. In a small skillet, bring enough water to a simmer to halfway cover the lobster tail. You can use a skewer or a chopstick and run it lengthwise through the lobster tail. This is an optional step, but it keeps the tail from curling and aids in even cooking. Simmer the tail for 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the size of the tail, until just barely cooked through. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle. Continue to boil the water (which is now a nice lobster flavored stock) Reduce the water by half.

Lobster for lunch...well it seems to be relatively inexpensive and abundant right now!

Lobster for lunch…well it seems to be relatively inexpensive and abundant right now!

In a large saute pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Remove the skewer or chopstick from the tail, if using. With a large chef’s knife, split the tail lengthwise and remove the meat. Cut the tail meat into bite sized pieces. Add the lobster to the saute pan and saute briefly. Add 1 finely sliced or pressed garlic clove and continue to saute for another minute. Using the reserved lobster stock, add enough to make a light sauce. As an option, you could also add a 1/4 c. half’n’half or cream, if you like. Simmer to reduce a bit. Season with a little salt and pepper and toss in about 8 ounces of cooked spaghetti noodles (more or less, depending on your appetite). Toss to coat with the sauce and serve with some good Parmesan cheese…if you really want to tick off an Italian. They supposedly do not eat cheese with seafood…whatever. I loved it. You could serve this as a side dish or appetizer at dinner and divide into two smaller portions.

Note: you could use this same method with shrimp or other shellfish. Enjoy!

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