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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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Pineapple Pickles

Pineapple pickles, left.  Grape leaf experiment, right.

Pineapple pickles, left. Grape leaf experiment, right.

I recently was playing around with trying to pickle some muscadine grape leaves. I think it was successful, but the muscadine leaves are so small, and they are difficult to handle after blanching. I wound up adding some yellow squash slices to fill the jar, plus some lime wedges and fresh dill. I doubt I’ll ever do it again, and I have no idea what I’ll do with the leaves. Maybe the squash slices will be good? Anyway, I had some leftover brine; so I decided to use it with some fresh pineapple that I had in the refrigerator.

The brine was a one to one ratio of apple cider vinegar and water, plus kosher salt. I used a cup each of the liquids and 1/8 c. salt. The pineapple was in large wedges, so I removed the core and cut into “spears”. I put the pineapple into a jar, added a few fresh basil leaves, and then covered with hot brine. I sealed the jar and processed in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If these turn out to be good, I’ll probably experiment more and do some larger batches.

Update 5/22/15: Tasted the pickled pineapple and it was pretty good! Definitely has a sweet/sour thing going on. I’m not sure if I get the basil. I put the rest in the refrigerator  and will try it again chilled. I bought another pineapple and removed the peel and core to make tepache, a fermented Mexican pineapple drink. I only use the peel and core for the tepache, so I decided to pickle the fruit. I went with 1-1/2 cups each water and apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Added a stick of cinnamon and boiled. Removed from heat and tossed in a couple sprigs of rosemary. I packed the pineapple into 3 pint jars, divided the cinnamon stick and rosemary between the jars, added brine to a headspace of about 1/4″ and sealed. I processed the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I went back and tasted the brine and it was EXTREMELY salty. It may be okay for pickling…but maybe not. We’ll see. Hey, it’s just a pineapple!

Update 5/24/15: I opened a jar of the pineapple pickles that I made with the rosemary and cinnamon. Definitely strong on the salt! Then it’s sour and the rosemary comes through. I think rinsing the brine off helps with the saltiness, but it IS a pickle! It’s not pineapple in juice or syrup. I think I would warn folks and not surprise them with this one! In the future, I think I would try to back off the salt and increase the sugar (being careful to make sure the brine is still appropriate for safe pickling). The rosemary and cinnamon are good.

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Putting together Valentine’s Dinner…Steak, 2 Salads, cauliflower, etc.

We have had a bunch of snow lately, which isn’t a common occurrence for my area. I was able to get out this morning for some dinner supplies, but I didn’t do a big production for Valentine’s Day this year. We did, however, have a great meal!

Valentine's Dinner 2014

Valentine’s Dinner 2014

The menu was steak, green beans, cauliflower, salad and bread. (And a heart shaped cookie for dessert.) The steak was pan seared with butter and olive oil and the finished in the oven. The green beans were, honestly, canned. I drained them, rinsed them with fresh water three times and flavored with a few dashes of Maggi Seasoning. (If you don’t have to feed them to a vegetarian, you could use a beef bouillon cube. If you have no health concerns and want the traditional Southern flavor, render a little salt pork or fatback and then add the beans and simmer for awhile.) The cauliflower was roasted with olive oil and fresh garlic. I made two salads. One was a traditional Caesar and the other was mixed greens with Granny Smith apples, walnuts, feta cheese and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette, which also doubled as a dip for the warmed French baguette.

I went ahead and washed, prepped and spun dry the salad greens. I grated about 1/4 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano chesse for the Caesar salad. I used a store-bought Caesar dressing.

Spun romaine

Spun romaine

Preparing for Caesar.

Preparing for Caesar.

I made a balsamic vinaigrette with 1 garlic clove, pressed, salt pepper, a teaspoon dijon mustard and 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part good quality aceto di balsamico. Put in a sealed container and shake! I prepared acidulated water for the apples with half a lemon juiced into a couple of cups of water and then toss in the squeezed lemon. This keeps the apple sliced from browning. Assemble the other ingredients and have the standing by.

Fancy Salad Ingredients

Fancy Salad Ingredients

Apple slices in acidulated water

Apple slices in acidulated water

The steaks were seasoned on both sides with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder. I melted a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a heavy, flat bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

Pan searing the steaks

Pan searing the steaks

When the pan was ready, I added the steaks and seared for a few minutes on either side, basting them in the butter and olive oil, and then put them in the oven that was preheated to 375F.

The cauliflower (one head) was separated into florets, tossed with extra virgin olive oil and 2 cloves of freshly pressed garlic. These were placed, in a single layer, on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.

Cauliflower with Olive Oil and Garlic...ready to roast

Cauliflower with Olive Oil and Garlic…ready to roast

This went into the same 375F oven as the steaks. Timer was set for 15 minutes to remind me to check on the cauliflower. (I was also doing two vegan “crabless” cakes that went in on the same tray as the cauliflower, turned over when I checked on the cauliflower and roasted another 10 minutes.)

Flip the steaks after a few minutes and finished to desired degree of doneness. Removed from the oven to rest for at least 5 minutes. Turned the oven off and placed the baguette inside the oven.

Steaks, resting.

Steaks, resting.

Removed the cauliflower from the oven after a total of about 25 minutes in the oven.

Roasted cauliflower with a couple of vegan "crabless" cakes

Roasted cauliflower with a couple of vegan “crabless” cakes

Assemble the salads. Added a handful of walnuts (maybe 1/3 cup) to the the mixed greens. Also added the sliced Granny Smith apples, spun dry.  For the Caesar, I added the croutons and shredded parmigiano. I seasoned both salads with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Just before serving, I tossed the salads with dressing…not too much! You can add more, but you don’t want it soggy.

Get dressed!

Get dressed!

Everybody in the pool!

Everybody in the pool!

Looking back, I should have made some cocktail or tartar sauce for the vegan “crabless” cakes. Just a note on these: I got these for two reasons. 1) My wife has been mostly vegetarian for a couple of years now and 2) she is deathly allergic to shellfish. Whole Foods makes the product that I used. It has NO shellfish in it at all…not even an extract or fake crab. And they are quite good! My wife had one for the first time a couple of weeks ago and she said it was the first time she had something that actually tasted like a crab cake in the last 30 years…and she used to really like crab cakes. She said she couldn’t help but have reservations and a little anxiety because it tasted so real! Thanks, Whole Foods! (And you’re welcome for the plug!)

I was serving ribeye to my kids, so I went ahead and cut it up and separated out the fat for them. They didn’t take all the meat, so I used the rest on my plate. So, I practiced a little portion control AND I have a whole other ribeye for tomorrow, which I will enjoy!

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How About Some Easy Deviled Eggs?

Easy Deviled Eggs

Easy Deviled Eggs

Here’s an easy recipe for some great deviled eggs. I’m not usually a fan, myself; however, even I like these! These have a little kick, but are pretty traditional. The fun thing is that you can personalize deviled eggs with all kinds of variations, from anchovy to Sriracha…from different mustards to truffles. The thing that makes these so easy is that you can buy eggs in the grocery store that are already boiled and shelled. I know, right!? But bear with me! I was reluctant for a long time too; but I finally tried some and they are great and very consistent. Different stores may carry different brands. Not a problem! I’ve tried a couple and all were good. Cooking and shelling the eggs is the real pain in the butt! The rest is pretty easy. Just watch the expiration date!

No, really! They're good!

No, really! They’re good!

Easy Deviled Eggs

Ingredients for Easy Deviled Eggs

Ingredients for Easy Deviled Eggs

18 Eggs, hardboiled, peeled and chilled

1 t. Coleman’s English Mustard (powder)

4 T. Dill Pickle Relish

1/4 c. mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s)

1 t. Yellow Mustard

1 t. Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. Place the whites on a serving platter. Use a fork to smash the yolks and stir until evenly broken up and fluffy.

Fork-fluffed yolks

Fork-fluffed yolks

Stir in the Coleman’s English Mustard to distribute evenly throughout the yolks. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well blended.

Fill the whites

Fill the whites

Fill the whites with the yolk mixture and chill until ready to serve. You can use a very small (#60 to #80) disher (food/ice cream scoop), spoons or a pastry bag with a tip big enough not to be blocked by the size of the pickle relish. Sprinkle with a dusting of paprika to garnish just before serving, if desired. I’m thinking that these would be great at a New Year’s Day brunch with roughly chopped capers in place of the pickle relish, a thin slice of lox on top with a touch of sour cream and a little sprig of fresh dill! What’s your variation? Enjoy!

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Salted Baked Potatoes and Roasted Cabbage Steaks

How about some salt-baked Yukon Gold Potatoes and some Garlic-Rubbed Cabbage Steaks and maybe some soup?

How about some salt-baked Yukon Gold Potatoes and some Garlic-Rubbed Cabbage Steaks and maybe some soup?

I call this my “Nouveau Irish” combo! You can find the recipe for the Cabbage Steaks on Pinterest…basically it’s 425 degrees for 25 minutes per side. Cut them so that the root holds it all together. Brush both sides with olive oil and garlic that has been run through a garlic press or minced fine. For the potatoes, I can’t remember where I heard about coating them in salt. I’ve been doing it for ever for baked potatoes. I use kosher salt these days, but regular salt works fine. Wash your potatoes and, while still wet, pour a couple of tablespoons of salt in your hand. Roll a potato in your hand until coated. (I know, you waste some salt. So, don’t use your fancy fleur de sel or pink Himalayan salt.) Basic salt is pretty cheap. Repeat with all potatoes. If you are doing large bakers, you can bake at 450 degrees for an hour. If you are doing the cabbage combo, use smaller potatoes, like Yukon Gold or Redskin and heat your oven to 425 degrees. The 50 minutes for the cabbage works out for the potatoes, too.

Salt-Baked Yukon Gold Potatoes and Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage Steaks

Salt-baked Yukon Gold potatoes and Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage Steaks

While you can eat the skins of the traditional bakers (usually Russet) and the salt-roasting makes them better, the smaller ones are REALLY good! I like the cabbage “as is”, but you can drizzle with a little Balsamic vinegar or pepper vinegar. Serve the potatoes with butter and sour cream or your favorite baked potato toppings. (I like salsa on them in the Summer!) If you are a meateater, some corned beef would complete the combo nicely. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Soup with Cumin and Ginger

Soup and grilled cheese...perfect comfort meal on a chilly Autumn evening!

Soup and grilled cheese…perfect comfort meal on a chilly Autumn evening! Pumpkin on the left and Tomato on the right.

So, I just made a few quarts of pumpkin puree (see previous post). I guess I need to do something with some of it before I prepare the rest for storage! It’s raining and chilly outside and it’s the first of November. How about a nice soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner? Enjoy!

Pumpkin Soup with Cumin and Ginger

Ingredients:

1 t. Olive Oil, extra virgin

IMAG1618

Some of the ingredients….

1/2 t. White Pepper

1-1/2 t. Cumin Powder

2 Garlic Cloves

½ c. Onion, chopped

1/3 c. Celery, chopped

¼ c. White Wine

2 c. Vegetable Stock

2 c. Pumpkin Puree

1 T. Honey

Pinch of Kosher Salt, to taste

½ c. Half’n’Half

Sour Cream for Garnish

Directions:

Sauté onions, celery and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes to soften. Add spices and continue until fragrant, about a minute. Add stock and wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Soup base.

Soup base.

Puree soup base, carefully, with an immersion blender or in a regular blender, with the center of the blender lid removed and a folded kitchen towel to cover the hole.

Pureed soup.

Pureed soup.

This prevents pressure build up and painful burns! Add pumpkin puree and honey to the soup base. Season with salt. Bring back to simmer. Just before serving, add half’n’half. Garnish with a small dollop of sour cream on top of the soup.

Soup with a dollop of sour cream. Dollop...fun word...dollop. Heh.

Soup with a dollop of sour cream. Dollop…fun word…dollop. Heh.

Pass additional sour cream separately. Offer croutons, if you like. (I tried some roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish, but they got tough and chewy in the soup. They would be good on the side, though!) Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a bone-warming autumn meal! Enjoy!

Note: Leave out the Half’n’Half and sour cream (and use vegan substitutes, if you like) and go salad instead of grilled cheese and you have a nice vegan meal.

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