Friday, 30 September 2016

Roasted Red Pepper & Cheddar Dip

Pimento cheese is a classic of southern U.S. cooking, but it can be much improved by using good Cheddar cheese and freshly roasted peppers. Now's the time!

Actually, you could make the time last all winter if you roast red peppers now and freeze them. And of course, I am not a fan of red bell peppers; Red Shepherd, Chervena Chushka or other similar long pointed red roasters are the kind you are looking for.

about 2 cups dip
30 minutes to roast the peppers
30 minutes to finish the dip

Roast the Red Peppers:
4 medium red peppers

Cook the peppers under the broiler, turning them as the skin blackens, until they are roasted all over. Pile them up in a bowl, and cover them, until they cool. Then remove the stems and seeds, and peel them. Chop the flesh finely.

This can be done up to a day ahead.

Finish the Dip:
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/2 cup mayonnaise, light is fine
150 grams (5 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated

Peel and mince the garlic. Put it in a small shallow baking dish with the chopped red peppers, and mix them with the salt, paprika, and mayonnaise. Grate the cheddar and mix it in.

Move the oven rack so it is about 8" from the broiler, then put in the dip and broil at this distance until lightly browned and bubbling. This will not take much more than 5 minutes, so watch it carefully.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Here's a classic recipe for eggplant, and very good too. If you can cook the eggplants on a grill, so  much the better. If not and you can find smoked paprika, that will help supply the smoky quality that makes this so nice. Serve it with pita bread of course.

about 2 cups dip
2 hours to prepare the eggplant
20 minutes to finish the dip

Roast the Eggplants:
3 medium (1.5 kg or 3 pounds) eggplants
2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash and trim the eggplants, and cut each with 2 or 3 deep gouges, to the other side but not breaking the skin, and sprinkle salt generously into each cut. Set aside for 30 minutes or an hour, then rinse out the salt. Rub the eggplants with the oil and roast them at 350°F for about 45 minutes to an hour, until quite soft. Let cool.

This can be done up to a day ahead, refrigerating the cooled eggplants until needed, in a covered dish. 

Finish the Babaganoush:
3 tablespoons tahini
3 to 6 cloves of garlic
the juice of 2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet OR hot paprika
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley OR cilantro

Scrape the flesh of the eggplants from the skin, and discard the skin. Mash the flesh well with a fork, or if you prefer a smoother texture, put it into the bowl of a food processor. Add the tahini, the garlic peeled and finely minced (or left whole, if going into the food processor), the lemon juice, the salt, the pepper, the paprika, and the parsley or cilantro. Mix well, or purée until well blended.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Feta Cheese Stuffed Kohlrabi

Kohlrabies can vary quite a bit in size. I used 2 large ones, probably about 4" across, but smaller ones may be more tender, or more to the point, you take them in the size you can find. I would consider a 3" diameter to be a medium kohlrabi and would have used 3 of them, and a 2 1/2"  diameter would have been small and I would have used 4 of them. In any case I'm pretty sure the 2 of us would have eaten them all. That's considering this as a main dish, served with some sort of starch to make it a complete meal. They would also make a nice little first course at a more formal meal, and as such would serve at least 4 (or perhaps even 6 or 8 if you found and used smaller kohlrabies although at that point they would be more of an hors d'oeuvre than a first course).

I really liked these; they were mild but satisfying. Do be sure your kohlrabies are fairly tender when they come out of the boiling water bath. Poke them along the equator to test. You want them to hold together, but by the time they come out of the oven all crunch should be gone, and that takes some cooking.

If I had the kohlrabi greens, I would be inclined to serve these on a bed of the plain boiled or creamed greens. 

2 to 4 servings
1 3/4 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Feta Cheese Stuffed Kohlrabi

2 to 4 kohlrabi (see comments above)
1 medium carrot
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
100 grams (1/4 pound) feta cheese
1 large egg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups broth, - chicken, vegetable or the cooking water

Put a pot of salted water on to boil, such that the peeled kohlrabies will be covered once they are added. If you plan to use this cooking water as your broth, don't over-salt it.

Peel the kohlrabies. Boil them for 20 minutes, then drain well and put in cold water until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrot. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

When the kohlrabies are ready, cut them in half along the equator. Scoop out the insides, leaving a half-inch shell. Place them in a lightly oiled fairly snug baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Finely chop or grate the kohlrabi pieces removed from the insides. Heat the oil in a medium skillet, and cook the carrot, onion, and kohlrabi bits gently over medium heat, stirring regularly, until they have softened and reduced in volume. They may brown slightly, but don't let them brown too much. When they are done, add the garlic, and cook for another minute, stirring well. Remove this stuffing to a mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Wash, trim, and chop the parsley and add it to the stuffing. Crumble the feta cheese and add it to the stuffing. Break in the egg and mix well. Divide the stuffing evenly between the kohlrabi halves. Pour enough broth or cooking water around the kohlrabies to fill the dish about half an inch deep. Bake them for 45 minutes. Check them after half an hour and add a little more broth if it is looking low - you should end with just enough to cover the bottom of the pan well.

Let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, and pour the liquid in the baking dish over them when you serve them.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Sweet Freckles Melon

We first grew these in 2013, and since then it has become a regular in the garden. In fact, this year we grew no other melons, as seed for Sweet Freckles can be hard to get and I wanted to assure myself of a good supply of pure seed.

As you may suppose from that sacrifice - and sacrifice it was; no Gnadenfeld, no Collective Farm Woman, no Early Hanover or any other variety of cucumis melo for us this year - we regard this melon very highly. It is not a particularly old variety, since it was bred by Tim Peters of Peters Seed and Research, probably in the 1970s or 80s. Tim Peters aimed to create a variety of Crenshaw melon that was adapted to short, cool growing seasons since most Crenshaw melons require a long, hot season. Very few varieties of Crenshaw melon can reasonably be grown in Ontario.

Crenshaw melons are often described as a hybrid between Casaba (a winter melon type) and Persian melons, which is not strictly accurate. They were very likely developed from them, but there a now a number of varieties which are open pollinated lines in their own right. Unstable hybrids they are not. Eel River is another Crenshaw and perhaps the next most adapted for growing in Ontario, but I have not tried it. It is sometimes known as Crane, after its developer. One parent of that variety is said to have come from Japan, so neither Casaba nor Persian. Cottage Gardener does carry Crane, but it is a hair later then Sweet Freckles at 95 days to maturity. 

Sweet Freckles is much smaller than most Crenshaws. My largest weighed in at just a hair under 2 kilos, and since the average size is more like 2 pounds that was a mighty big Sweet Freckles. We had perfect melon growing weather this year, although the first year I grew Sweet Freckles it was cool and rainy non-stop and we still got very good results. It helps to have been bred in Oregon, I guess! Other than getting a couple of massive melons I can't say the hot dry weather made for better tasting melons than we've gotten other years, which is fine since perfect melon weather is definitely not guaranteed and that means that the flavour is reliably excellent.

These are not the earliest melons (90 days to maturity) and I do eye them nervously as the season comes to an end and they are not quite ripe yet. This year the vines were cut short early by powdery mildew, but fortunately these melons will continue to ripen off the vine. Their season is thus pretty short, and I was faced with having over 20 ripe melons standing by in a week. I dealt with this by drying most of them, and I have to say... DRIED MELON! WHO KNEW?! Well, people in Central Asia knew, and once I read this article on Ibn Battuta's melon, I did too... fabulous. So sweet, it's just like candy, with an amazing intensified melon flavour.

 The melons start off pale green with dark green splotches - the freckles - and as they ripen a yellow hue infuses the pale green background and the splotches begin to turn what may be quite a bright orange starting from the bottom of the melon and working its way up. The effect makes them look almost translucent or lit from within. The flesh is a typical melon pale salmon colour.

The skin is supposed to be more durable than that of most Crenshaws. That's... good. I find them delicate enough and they want careful handling. Still, the few that have suffered from picks and pecks deteriorated very slowly thereafter. There is a limit though so - careful handling. I don't think their disease resistance is outstanding either. However their cheerful tolerance of highly variable weather and excellent flavour means I will continue to grow these every year, if not in quite such perfect isolation.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Veal in Tomato Sauce

This is essentially Marcella Hazan's famous 3-ingredient tomato sauce, to which I have added veal and Greek-inspired seasonings, as well as leaving in the onion. I have to say that her tomato sauce is famous for a reason; it is extremely simple and delicious. Exactly what I like in a recipe.

You could use tinned tomatoes for this, in which case it could be made all year. At any rate serve it with some rice, pasta, or crusty bread, and seasonal vegetables.

4 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Veal in Tomato Sauce

1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup unsalted butter
600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) stewing veal
600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) fresh tomatoes
5 or 6 allspice berries
1 teaspoon coriander seed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil to blanch the tomatoes. 

Peel and chop the onion finely. Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion, garlic, and veal. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the onion and garlic have softened and the veal has changed colour; stir regularly.

Blanch the tomatoes, chop them coarsely, and add them to the veal. Mix in and let simmer while you grind the allspice and coriander. Add them, with the bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Simmer gently, stirring regularly, for about 1 hour.

Like most stews, this is best prepared the day before and reheated before serving.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Caprese Tortellini Salad

I've made tortellini salad before; it's a very quick and easy way to make a substantial summer salad meal. My basil is about to run seriously to seed, and with cooler nights becoming common, the tomatoes are on their last hurrah. A Caprese inspired salad seemed the obvious choice.I added some beans and onions because I had them, and I thought it needed a bit more in the way of vegetables.

I used my favourite salad tomato cross that showed up a few years ago in the garden (I mention it here) which starts early and keeps going all season, making nice little tomatoes with the flavour expected from a larger beefsteak type. But your favourite cherry tomato, or a mix of colourful varieties would be a good choice.

6 to 8 servings
30 minutes prep time

Caprese Tortellini Salad

Make the Dressing:
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and finely mince the garlic. Whisk it in a salad bowl with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. 

Make the Salad:
450 grams (1 pound) cheese tortellini
2 cups chopped green beans
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 to 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
450 grams (1 pound) cherry or small salad tomatoes
200 grams (1/2 pound) mozzarella cheese

Cook the cheese tortellini according to the directions; mine was to be boiled in salted water for 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and chop the beans. Add them to the tortellini when it has 5 to 7 minutes more to cook. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, pick over, and finely shred the basil. Add them to the bowl of salad dressing. Wash and core (if necessary) the tomatoes, and cut them in halves or quarters depending on their size. Add them to the salad. Cut the mozzerella into cubes (or if you get bocconcini, into halves or quarters). Add it to the salad.

When the tortellini and beans are cooked, rinse them in cold running water until they are completely cool. Drain them very thoroughly. Add them to the salad and mix well. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Watermelon Jelly & Sicilian Watermelon Pudding

You are not particularly supposed to eat these together! They are two separate things. I was just in compare and contrast mode. We liked them both very much and they were surprisingly different from each other, even though the ingredients and techniques bear a certain resemblance.

Watermelon Jelly

This is your straightforward standard fruit juice jelly; the sugar and lemon or lime juice brighten it and the jelly gives it a different texture, but you know you are eating watermelon. I think it would be fun to cube it up and toss it with some cubes of watermelon.

I didn't think it was all that foamy, but it did settle into 2 layers as it set. Which didn't bother me particularly. 

makes 4 servings
10 minutes prep time plus 2 hours to set

Watermelon Jelly

2 cups puréed watermelon, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated gelatine

Cut the watermelon from the rind, and pick out the seeds. Purée it in a food processor or blender, and measure 2 cups. Put one cup of the purée into a small pot with the sugar and heat it until the sugar is dissolved and the purée is just on the edge of boiling.

Meanwhile, add the lemon or lime juice to the remaining purée and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Stir in the hot purée when it is ready, stirring carefully to make sure the gelatine is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a mold and chill until set; at least 2 hours to overnight.

To unmold, dip the mold into a bowl or pot of warm (tap) water for a few seconds, being careful not to get any water on the surface of the jelly. Shake it a little and when it shows signs of loosening, put a plate over it and flip it over. If you can, it's nice to set it back in the fridge for a few minutes so it can regain its composure. 

Sicilian Watermelon Pudding (Gelo di Anguria)

I first saw this recipe at Epicurious, although I used basically the version from Food 52 as it looked better. Even so, I cut the sugar way back as usual, and didn't miss it.

I don't use cornstarch very much, but I was sure I had a big jar of it in the back of the cupboard. I'm still convinced I have a big jar of it in the back of the cupboard, but when I went to make this, could I find it? No, of course not. So I ended up using what I usually use when a recipe calls for cornstarch; I used arrowroot. It worked, as far as I'm concerned, just fine, although I can't confirm that it is quite the same as the original cornstarch. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't a little boingier, in fact; but I like boingy just fine so no problem. It also unmolded beautifully, which I really wasn't expecting. It did sit in the fridge for a couple of days until I got around to it so that might have helped.

makes 4 servings
15 minutes prep time plus 2 hours to set

Sicilian Watermelon Pudding (Gelo di Anguria)

2 cups strained watermelon purée
1/3 cup cornstarch or arrowroot
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
a little chocolate to grate over the top

1/2 cup whipping cream(optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Cut the watermelon from the rind, and pick out the seeds. Purée it in a food processor or blender, and pour it through a strainer to measure 2 cups.

Put the purée, cornstarch or arrowroot, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a heavy-bottomed pot and mix well to be sure the starch is completely dissolved. Heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and clears. Scrape it into a mold and chill until set; at least 2 hours to overnight.

Unmold the pudding in the same manner as with the jelly, and grate a little chocolate over the top before serving. If you like, you can serve it with a little whipping cream beaten until stiff with the sugar.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Persimmon Tomatoes

I was a bit shocked to realize that I have not previously written a varietal report for Persimmon Tomatoes, because they are in many ways our most valuable tomato variety.

There are 2 different tomatoes known as Persimmon tomatoes, one originating in the United States and one from Russia, and to make it worse when I was researching this post I discovered another called Ukrainian Persimmon. All these tomatoes share a rich, persimmon orange colour, but are otherwise different enough to be quite distinguishable.

We have been growing the American variety. It is a long, rangy, indeterminate plant - the kind we have to grow, with our pernicious septoria leaf spot problem - with large fruits up to 2 pounds in size, but averaging about 1 pound each. The Russian Persimmon is a smaller determinate plant with smaller fruit, and we have not grown it. Persimmon was the first ripe tomato we harvested this year, which is amazing considering its size. Usually the cherry tomatoes are the first, but this year they were a day or two behind. It is quite likely that Persimmon will be the last tomato harvested as well, or if not within a day or two of it. In short, it has the longest production time of any tomato we grow, and per-plant productivity is high.

The tomatoes are delicious raw, with a rich but not too acidic flavour and firm, dense flesh low in seeds; smooth and melting in texture in the mouth. If they produce more than  you can eat raw, they cook and can very well. They are too moist to be a true canning tomato, but their productivity means they end up being a substantial contributor to our tomato sauce, and they hold up their end well. If you use them in canning, be sure to add vinegar or lemon juice though, as I suspect they are indeed on the low-acid end of the tomato range. 

They are described as being ripe in 80 days from planting out. Are all our other tomatoes that late or later? Maybe. We need to start growing some earlier ones. We have had no problems with splitting or blossom end rot, both of which affected other tomatoes this year what with the heat and drought. They do tend to be a little on the soft side, and start so low on the plant and get so big that they can get trapped and distorted by their own vines; it's a good idea to monitor them a bit as they grow. Slugs like this one too so watch for them. Otherwise, these have been as trouble-free as any tomato we grow. The ones in the picture are late specimens, and so a bit smaller and wonkier in shape than the best of them. The core is substantial, as it needs to be to support so large a tomato. As I say, we regard this as our most important tomato variety; one we automatically allot 3 out of our 14 trellises to every year and then ask, okay what else shall we grow?

The history of this tomato is somewhat unclear to me. There are claims out there that his was grown by Thomas Jefferson in the 1780s. That seems very unlikely to me; 18th century tomatoes were generally smaller and more ribbed, not to say red. On the other hand, if anyone had access to orange tomatoes then, it would have been him. However, Carolyn Male found no reference to it in his journals and thinks it very unlikely this tomato appeared before the 1880s, which is what Tatiana's TomatoBASE lists. What does seem likely is that this tomato entered wide circulation through Kent Whealy and the Seed Savers Exchange, via Ken Ettlinger of the Long Island Seed Project, who received the seed originally from Ben Quisenberry. Ben Quisenberry was a notable figure in  heirloom tomato circles; his small seed company called Big Tomato Gardens in Syracuse, Ohio was the source of many of the tomatoes that formed the foundation of the modern heirloom seed movement. Where he would have gotten it is unknown; it is even possible it is of his own breeding or at least that he selected and shaped it in its present form.

On which note, there seems to be quite a lot of variation in what people report from growing Persimmon. Some people don't find it productive at all. It is possible that its qualities vary in varying conditions, but it is equally likely that it has been around long enough that there are some fairly different strains of it out there. If you try it and it doesn't live up to expectations, try getting seed from a different source before you give up. Our seed came from Tatiana's TomatoBASE.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Artichoke, Mushroom & Spinach Soup

When you eat artichokes plain - although by plain I mean boiled and served with some kind of sauce - do a few extra and then you can make soup with them. Like this one!

2 to 4 servings
30 to 40 minutes to cook the artichokes
30 minutes to make the soup

Artichoke, Mushroom & Spinach Soup

8 to 12 button mushrooms
2 or 3 medium shallots
2 cups spinach
4 cooked medium artichokes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups artichoke cooking water OR chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms. Peel and mince the shallots. Wash and pick over the spinach. Begin pulling leaves off the artichokes, and scraping the flesh off them, Set the flesh aside and discard the stringy leaves. As you get down through the artichokes, the leaves will become more flesh and less string; at some point it will be appropriate just to cut the spiny tips of the leaves off and chop up the remaining tender artichoke heart.

Once you have done 2 of the artichokes, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and add the mushrooms and shallots. Cook them gently, stirring regularly, for 5 or 10 minutes until softened and slightly browned in spots. Finish the artichokes as they cook and add all the accumulated pulp to the soup pot.

Add the flour, salt, and pepper to the pot, and mix in well. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, then begin to mix in the artichoke cooking water, a bit at a time, to keep the soup smooth and free of lumps of flour. Season with the Worcestershire sauce (and check the seasoning generally). Simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes until the soup is slightly thickened.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Versatile Chocolate Cake Dressed as an Owl, Because Why Not?

My cake decorating skills are most kindly described as rustic, so I decided to go with it... you can't get much more rustic than an owl. This is made with 2 8" round layer cakes (4 layers in total - 2 batches of the cake).

The cake was a basic chocolate cake that I was very surprised to realize I have not published before. I guess it's been a while since I've made it, but at one point I made it often. It can be adapted to be orange flavoured, or to be made without milk or without eggs. I've replaced the oil with applesauce, back in the days when everyone was avoiding fat, and all those modifications really work quite well. The addition of cinnamon is very typical of Mexican cooking, and goes nicely with chocolate, but I opted not to add it this time. I would also not add it if I was making the orange version.

I don't usually do a ton of photos but this time I did, so they are behind the cut, along with the recipe.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Vanilla Pudding Frosting

Late summer is when family birthdays have traditionally happened around here, and strangely enough this year too. In fact, my mother-in-law turned 80, so we held a birthday tea party for her and I made a cake - more about which in the next post. I frosted it with 2 different versions of this frosting. I've posted the chocolate version before, but you can make a vanilla version too. It's a little hard to say for sure, since I didn't exactly do it, but it should frost a 9" double layer cake.

This frosting can easily be made the day before  you need it; just take it out of the fridge to allow it to warm up to a spreadable temperature before you attempt it. Because of the high butter content of these icings, they do need to then be kept cool until the cake is served (and even then...)

makes about 2 cups of frosting
about 30 minutes prep time not including cooling times
should be started at least 2 hours before it is to be used

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or other flavouring

Sift the sugar, flour, and salt together into the top of a double boiler, and slowly mix in the milk, making sure the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Turn on the heat, and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove it from the heat and let it cool completely. Stir occasionally as it cools.

When ready to proceed, put the softened butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Begin adding the cooled custard, about one-third at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla or other flavouring. Beat for a few more minutes once it is all in. The finished icing should be smooth, creamy and light.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cooking Artichokes

I was very pleased to find Ontario grown artichokes at the grocery store recently! They are definitely not a traditionally available vegetable for us. We've tried growing them, and have not had much success. I think we got one. And when I think of the size of the plant that laboured to bring forth that single one; well, apparently artichokes are a little pricey for a reason.

As I prepared them I noted that they have changed a bit since the instructions on preparing them first started to circulate, back with the Romans presumably. Ours had no really detectable spiny tips, and once we had pulled off enough leaves to get to the heart, what used to be the "choke*" in the middle was non-existent. Hurray for modern vegetable breeding!

I made an oil and vinegar based dipping sauce for ours, but melted butter is very traditional, with or without garlic, and I suspect the chipotle mayonnaise commonly served with sweet potato fries would also be a good choice.

1 artichoke per serving
45 minutes prep time

Artichokes with Dipping Sauce

Cook the Artichokes:
1 artichoke per serving

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil, sufficient to hold the artichokes and allow them to move freely.

Trim the stem to remove the discoloured end, but leave most of it in place unless it is very long - the base of the artichoke is good eating. Remove any loose, damaged, or notably tough leaves, and if some of the leaves are spiny at the tips, trim off the tips.

Boil the artichokes until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on size. Most Ontario artichokes are not too big, so 30 minutes will generally be sufficient. Give them a stir occasionally to make sure they cook evenly.

Balsamic-Garlic Dipping Sauce:
1 small clove of garlic
1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Peel and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a very small pan, and cook the garlic in it until just barely coloured (only a minute or so). Remove the pan from the heat, and add the balsamic vinegar at once. Promptly pour it into the serving dish. Sauce ingredients are per artichoke.

*I believe this was a little section of barely formed leaves that were nevertheless already quite spiny... not a great thing to be chewing and swallowing so it was always removed.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Dill Pickle-Brined Pork Tenderloin

I don't think this is even a recipe, so much as something I did, but since it was something I did that turned out very well, here it is.

First of all, you need to eat quite a lot of good quality dill pickles, because you need to accumulate a quite a lot of leftover brine. You made these, right?  Well if you didn't, you need a big jar of real dill pickles, from the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Go get 'em; go eat 'em. I'll wait.

Okay, once you have your jar containing only lots of dill pickle brine, you keep half of it aside and you stuff your pork loin into the jar. If you don't think it will fit, put it in another container which will hold it fairly snugly, cover it with the brine and seal it up. If you got it into the jar, fill it up with more brine, then cap it. As you may suppose, the best place to be doing all of this is in the sink. Wash off your sealed container and put it in the fridge... you know, I have given you  half this "recipe" already, and this was the hard half.

Surprisingly, I did think it needed a little salt. Maybe the pickles had soaked up most of the salt from the brine? Maybe it's my fairly low salt recipe for pickles? Check your brine before you add more salt though. I didn't actually salt it before I cooked it, and just added some at the table, which was fine. That's probably the safest way to go.

We really liked this. It was very tender, and the dill pickle flavour was much milder than I had feared. In fact, I bet this would have been good with Tartar Sauce.

4 to 6 servings
2 days to marinate
20 to 35 minutes roasting time
20 minutes accumulated mucking about

Dill Pickle-Brined Pork Tenderloin

1 1 kg to 1.5 kg (2 to 3 pound) pork tenderloin
about 2 to 3 cups dill pickle brine; enough to cover
1 tablespoon bacon fat or mild vegetable oil
1 to 2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
salt perhaps & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put your pork tenderloin into the dill pickle brine as described above. A really sturdy zip-lock bag would work too. The point is that your pork tenderloin must be immersed in the dill pickle brine. Stash it in the fridge for at least 24 and up to 48 hours.

Remove the tenderloin from the brine and discard it (brine, that is). Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the oil in a large skillet and heat it over medium-high heat while you pat the tenderloin dry with a paper towel. Brown it on each side; about 3 minutes per side.

If your skillet can go in the oven, you can leave it in the skillet and put it right in the oven. Otherwise, transfer it to a reasonably snug baking dish before it goes in. Sprinkle it with the paprika, maybe a little salt, and pepper.

Roast for 20 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the roast. Once it comes out, cover it and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Salade de pâtes à la Niçoise

Salade Niçoise is a firm family favourite, and now is the prime time to make it. This is not the traditional version made with potato salad, but really it could be - you have only to substitute the pasta with cubes of potato. I have not dug up any potatoes yet, although I could, were I not too busy.

This would be most traditional served on a bed of lettuce, but it is a sad garden truth that the better the beans and tomatoes, the worse the lettuce. I have no lettuce at all, other than a few massive plants left to go to seed; I am happy to report that my beans and tomatoes are excellent. You will note I am quite vague about the quantity of tomato to use; as ever it will depend on the size of the tomatoes and how much you want. This is that kind of recipe in general.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta Salade Niçoise

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh basil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, olive oil, minced basil, peeled and minced garlic, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in the bottom of a salad bowl. Keep in mind the kind of fish you are using, and whether you have anchovies or olives when you add the salt; in other words use a pretty light hand with it. More can be added later if necessary.

Make the Salad:
125 grams stubby pasta
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (or more) chopped raw green beans
1/2 small sweet onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery
1 133 gram drained tin of tuna
OR similar sized piece of cooked salmon or trout; smoked would work
2 to 6 salad tomatoes
a few anchovy fillets
OR 6 to 8 olives
a few large lettuce leaves if possible

Put a pot of water on for the pasta; when it boils salt it and add the pasta. Cook the pasta for 1 minute longer than called for on the package. When the pasta has 10 minutes to cook, gently and carefully drop in the eggs. When the pasta has 5 minutes left to cook, add the washed, trimmed, and chopped beans.

Meanwhile peel, trim, and chop the onion finely. Wash, trim, and chop the celery finely. Add them to the bowl of salad dressing. Drain the tuna, if using. Peel (if you like) the tomatoes, and cut them into wedges.

When the pasta is done, turn the contents of the pan out into a strainer. Remove the eggs to a bowl of cold water to cool (whack them on the counter to crack them well first) then rinse the pasta and beans in cold water until cooled. Drain them very well and add them to the bowl of salad dressing. Toss to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Peel the eggs and cut them into quarters.

Arrange the flaked tuna (or salmon or trout) over the salad, along with the tomato wedges, anchovy fillets or olives, and hard boiled egg wedges. You are done - like dinner or, possibly, lunch.

If you have some decent lettuce - hard at this time of year and I certainly didn't have any - the salad could be arranged over a bed of lettuce.