Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saving up for Winter

Spiced Apple Butter, Pickled Beets, Dilly Beans!, B&B Pickles

So I feel like a squirrel. But in a good way.

Trevor and I have made our third attempt at canning and are finally seeing some success. In our prior attempts, we used recipes from cookbooks not specifically about canning and preserving. After our neighbors offered us all the apples we could pick from their tree and we realized the apple tree in our backyard was also producing, we didn’t want the apple windfall going to waste. So I started looking for a good canning book.

I browsed through several canning books online and read a few recommendations from The Oregonian. Then I went to the bookstore and decided on purchasing Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff. What I liked most about the book was that it doesn’t scare the reader away by making home canning this scary, arduous process. Some books made it seem as if you needed a laboratory and science degree to can safely. I felt that if people have been canning for generations, then it must be safe otherwise people would stop doing it.

Also, the author has a sense of humor. And it’s beautifully photographed and packed with recipes for every season that I couldn’t wait to try.

We started off making Spiced Apple Butter. After reading the book carefully, I realized I needed some sort of strainer or food mill. The Squeezo strainer recommended by the author cost about $200. So that was out. Then I remembered that there was a fruit and vegetable attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer that I didn’t have, but it worked with the food grinder attachment I did have. And it was around $50. It meant I didn’t have to peel and core six pounds of apples. Sold!

I followed the slow-cooker method for making the apple butter and it worked perfectly. When Trevor came home from work the apple butter was ready for canning. It’s much easier to can with two people. We finished up pretty quickly thinking, “That wasn’t too hard!”

The following weekend Trevor wanted to make Honeyed Bread-and-butter Pickles, Dilly Beans! and Pickled Beets. He brought home Persephone pickling cukes, dill, green beans and beets after his shift at the farmers’ market. Then we got to work.
2nd round: pickled beets & carrots
The pickles and beans turned out perfectly. The Dilly Beans! are my new favorite snack. I used to buy olives from the olive bar at my Fred Meyer to nibble on while making dinner. The Dilly Beans! have taken their place. Along with the Spicy Carrot Pickles we made the following week.

We did mess up our first batch of beets though. We were both working on the brine, (the hot, salty vinegar mixture that’s poured over vegetables to pickle and preserve them) and neither one of us added the water the recipe called for. That makes for very vinegary beets. We did a do-over and they should be fine.

What we learned from Canning for a New Generation and pickling our own vegetables is that we have some freedom with changing the spices if we keep the brine the same. We will be making many more recipes from this book. Also, it’s very satisfying to see the beautiful glass jars lined up on the shelf. That’s what I mean by I feel like a squirrel. Come February when fresh green beans are a distant memory, I’ll be able to pop open a jar of Dilly Beans! and crunch into a wonderfully preserved memory of summer.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fennel Pie

Last night I had planned on making a Caprese pasta with fresh tomatoes from our garden. But since we’ haven’t had too much sun this week, I didn’t have enough ripe tomatoes to harvest. So I rooted around the fridge to figure out what else I could make. I had fennel, kale, zucchini, feta cheese, fresh mozzarella and a little bit of onion. I realized I could make the Moosewood New Classics Fennel Quiche with some sautéed kale on the side. Perfect.

This meal was a little more work than I felt like doing, but it wasn’t too arduous. The most time-consuming part was making a piecrust. But I used a trick I’d just seen on the cooking show Ciao Italia. Grate frozen butter on a regular cheese grater and then mix it into your flour. Since keeping the dough cold is the key to flakey crust, this struck me as an excellent idea. Also, I buy butter in bulk and always store it in the freezer. And it worked out perfectly. The dough felt cold to the touch as I rolled it out on a piece of parchment paper.

The Moosewood recipe called for sautéing the fennel, onion, tomato and zucchini before putting it on the piecrust. And you make rich custard from feta cheese, tomato juice and eggs in a blender. Then you top the veggies with cheese, pour over the custard and bake. It smells heavenly while cooking. And makes a tasty lunch, or even breakfast, the next day. Plus it was a great use of Persephone Farm fennel, eggs, onion, zucchini and kale.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Slow-simmered pork

When the weather starts getting cooler, I happily get reacquainted with my old friend the slow cooker. And after Trevor brought home a couple of pounds of tomatillos, cilantro and several onions after working at the Persephone Farm stand at the PSU Farmers’ Market, I couldn’t wait to make chile verde.

Chile verde is home-style Mexican cooking at its best. It’s versatile — eat it as a stew, wrap it up in a flour tortilla, or make enchiladas with the leftovers. It’s filling and comforting — the pork falls apart when touched with a fork. And it’s healthy — a serving is a moderate amount of lean pork swimming in a sea of vegetables. Serve it with corn or flour tortillas, homemade gorditas or even with some Spanish fried rice.

Slow Cooker Chile Verde
Serves 6 to 8
I adapted this recipe from a Cooking Light recipe. I like to use a mix of Anaheim and poblano chiles. Sometimes the chiles are hotter than other times, but this dish isn’t supposed to very spicy. You can also make this on the stovetop, so I included a link to the original version below.

2 tablespoon canola oil
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins or pork sirloin roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup water
4 cups onion, chopped
2 pounds small tomatillos, husks and stems removed and quartered
1 pound fresh Anaheim or poblano chiles (about 4 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup water

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the pork evenly with salt and pepper. Place flour in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Shake to coat. Add pork to pan, and sauté 5 minutes, browning on all sides. This may need to be done in batches. Add more oil if necessary. Remove pork from the pan and place in a slow cooker. Add ¼ cup water to the hot skillet to deglaze it. Use a wooden spoon to loosen all the browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add water and browned bits to slow cooker.

Add onions, tomatillos, chiles, garlic, chicken stock, cilantro, cumin and oregano to the slow cooker. Stir to combine ingredients. Cover and cook for desired amount of time. (I usually cook on the high setting for 4 to 5 hours, but you can use the low setting and cook for 8 to 10 hours.) 1 hour before chile is finished cooking, use a fork to mix together 2 tablespoons flour and ¼ cup water. Mix until there are not any lumps. Add mixture to slow cooker and stir. Cover and let cook for remaining hour. Taste chile verde and add salt and ground black pepper as needed. Enjoy!

Chile Verde

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dancing Ravioli

Several years ago when I was living in California, I was at a party in which one of the hosts started making fried ravioli late into the night. He was dancing around while breading up the ravioli and deep-frying them. He wasn’t someone who had the reputation of being a “ladies man”, but nevertheless he soon had a crowd of hungry girls dancing around the kitchen with him — and eating the crispy ravioli as soon as they were cool enough to handle.

I think that was the last time I’d indulged in deep-fried ravioli goodness. So when I saw a recipe in Cooking Light magazine for Quick Crisp Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce, I wondered if this version could match my memory of the decidedly "unlight" version.

And I have to say, the light version met that same incredible combination of crunchy breading and oozing, melted-cheese filling I remembered. For the sauce we used two pints of super sweet Sungold tomatoes straight from our garden and Persephone Farm garlic. We added fresh basil to the sauce as well since it’s just going crazy in our garden right now. And the combo of fresh tomatoes and fresh basil is hard to beat.

The recipe called for refrigerated ravioli, but I had some frozen ravioli that I used instead. We just cooked them in boiling water before draining them and breading them. They worked out just fine.

This meal was cheap, fast and utterly delicious. Definitely a reason to dance around the kitchen.


Quick Crisp Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce