Tuesday, August 23, 2011

birthday pickles

this past weekend, i celebrated my birthday and the birthdays of two good friends with a picnic in the park. i made fried chicken, biscuits, a certain southern lady's amazing pimento cheese, and about a month before the picnic i made a big batch of refrigerator pickles. everyone brought tons of food: abby made a gorgeous caprese salad from her home-grown tomatoes, kate made delicious ricotta toasts, and lisa's butterscotch cookies were to die for. my pickle-crazy friend matt brought a great relish and a few other pickled items, lynn brought a fantastic eggplant dip and the other birthday girl tia made a kick-ass mango salsa. chris's korean-style barbeque ribs were probably the biggest hit of the picnic, and i like to flatter myself that the pickles were a close second.

before setting out the recipe for the pickles, i'd like to note that this recipe is NOT appropriate for canning. i haven't tested the pH and i'm sure there's not enough vinegar to make long term storage outside of the fridge safe. if you want a recipe for pickles appropriate for canning, i'd check out a canning-basics cookbook. the national center home food preservation's website is a great resource for canning and i like food in jars and mrs. wheelbarrow's kitchen for recipes.

the following portions should create one pint of pickles. feel free to increase the amounts incrementally to make a quart or several pints of pickles. they'll go quickly.

3-4 kirby cucumbers - sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 clove garlic - sliced thinly
1-2 sprigs of fresh dill

place dill into the jar along the sides and pack the slices of cucumber into the jar. intersperse the cucumbers with garlic slices and toss the mustard seeds into the jar when it is half filled with cucumbers. pack the cucumbers into the jar until 1/2 inch head space remains. pour the hot brine (see below) over the cucumbers and place the lid on the jar. let sit out until the jar is room temperature and then place in the fridge. let the pickles sit for at least a couple of days before opening and eating.

2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

combine the above ingredients in a non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer until the salt and sugar have fully dissolved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

favorite summertime recipes

i tend to hand-write blog posts on my train ride to and from work, and lately i've been so immersed in the bartimaeus trilogy (which i highly recommend), that i haven't made time to write. that doesn't mean that i haven't been cooking. summertime is zooming along and my csa is in full swing. i also opted for a fruit share this year, and i've loved every week of fresh organic fruit. i've created some recipes that aren't really ready to share, so i thought i'd share some of my go-to favorites for the summer.

smitten kitchen's pickled sugar snap peas: sugar snap peas are an early summer treat that disappear pretty quickly into the season. i usually just eat them raw or very lightly sauteed with a little bit of salt. i questioned the merit of doing anything to my snap peas, but pickling them was a revelation. if anything, this quickle recipe makes the peas even crisper.

david lebovitz's baba ganoush: i've been getting eggplant from my csa for nearly a month straight. i love grilled eggplant, i like it sauteed and served over pasta, but this baba ganoush is hands-down my favorite way to eat eggplant. i use a little less tahini than called for but otherwise find the recipe perfect.

fig & plum's simple caesar salad: i know, i know, caesar salad is boring. every corner restaurant has it on their menu with stale croutons and dry chicken. that is exactly why you should make this classic at home. use real, fresh ingredients put it together with love. jess is right, this recipe is a keeper.

food in jar's roasted tomatillo salsa: this recipe is new to me this year (and the accompanying story is worth the read). this was my first summer receiving tomatillos from my csa. i've always enjoyed the flavor and just haven't used them at home before. this salsa is easy -- yes you can just throw everything in the blender, skins and all -- and tasty and is also a great marinade for veggies or meat.