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Showing posts with label farmers market recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farmers market recipes. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Pickled Asian Pears

 

Not many have heard of pickled pears. In fact, everyone I've told about the plan for this week's blog has been both confused and intrigued at the concept. It's pretty funny for me to think about, especially because it's one of my favorite things to do with lots of pears. I don't necessarily enjoy eating pears, and the kind of pears I always seem to find are the ones better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree. I'm sure that not many here in the states have even heard of the concept of pickled pears but I'm glad to be the one to introduce it to you. This, along with Upside Down Caramel Pear Cake, is one of my favorite things to do with the plethora of gorgeous Asian Pears that do so well out here in the midwest. 

For this method, we'll be using a water bath canning method because I don't own a pressure cooker. I do have a large stock pot which I use for - you guessed it, stocks - and canning. You can find these on the cheap online or in many restaurant surplus stores. I'm using 32 oz quart mason jars for this project, and while you are more than welcome to use that size, you may use whichever size you have access to. This recipe makes enough brine for two of these jars, so please adjust accordingly. 


Pickled Asian Pears
yields 2 32 oz/quart jars or 4 pint jars

  • ~1 lb Asian pears washed thoroughly, quartered, and cored
  • 1 c + 3 Tbsp 5% white vinegar 
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Per jar
    • 1 star anise
    • 10 white peppercorns
    • 4 spiceberries or 2 allspice berries + 1 peel of orange zest, pith removed

For this project, you'll need:


A few notes from a canner! You can simply write the names of your items on the lids with a sharpie instead of using labels, and they will come off later with a bit of hand sanitizer. You can use tongs instead of a jar lifter in a pinch. You can use a pair of chopsticks as a bubble freer. A slotted spoon works just as well as a 'headspace tool' for your needs. I've literally never used a 'lid lifter' before so I see no reason you need it. 

Other things that are nice to have: 

  • A wood cutting board to rest your things on
  • A few clean tea towels
  • Some good music and a long phone charger
This is what I like to call a "day off" project, as it takes some good amount of preparation and mental headspace, so you'll likely want to do this on a day off to relax. Canning and preserving things can be extraordinarily relaxing, but it can be a bit of an ordeal. It's late summer when I'm writing this, which means that I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I'll be multitasking and canning some chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce while we chat about pickled pears, so please ignore the pictures of tomatoes you may see in the background. 

First thing's first when it comes to pickling: sterilize everything. For you, this means get your big stock pot of water and bring it to a boil. I let my jars boil for about 3 minutes, as well as my lids and tops, before letting out to dry on a wood cutting board. The important thing with glass jars to remember is that they're incredibly sturdy but the thing that will harm or weaken them are extreme temperature changes. This means you should never put a hot jar on a cold countertop or let a drop of cold water hit the steaming hot jars. This could result in a crack, break, or - even worse - a shatter. You don't want any of those things. 

To prepare the pears, wash them thoroughly before quartering and coring them. Some of the pears I had were larger, so I cut them in wedges instead of quarters. You may also peel them but I personally don't see it as necessary. All you must do is pack as many pears into these clean and sterilized jars as possible while leaving your headspace. Headspace is just the little bit of air that must exist in every canning jar. Just look for the little line where the jar's threads and the jar's body begins. This infographic chart will help!

Thank you Fix.com for the help!

When you've packed your jars thoroughly, let's prepare the brine by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and the bay leaf in a pot and bringing to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add your spices to each jar. Spiceberries are a gorgeous foraged item found in the midwest of America and we haven't yet figured out how to cultivate it. I'm a part of an incredible project with Prairie Birthday Farm to grow them and I'll hopefully be able to dry and sell them in the coming years. Until then, if you can't get your hands on these lovely native spices, use allspice berries and orange zest in each jar. Just drop the spices in the tops of each jar you fill and call it square.

When your brine is finished, remove the bay leaf and discard. Pour the hot brine over the fruit until you get the proper amount of headspace and everything is covered appropriately. Tap down a bit with your slotted spoon and press the sides of the fruit gently with your chopstick or bubble freer tool to - you guessed it - get any air bubbles out. Wipe the tops and mouths of the jars well with a clean paper towel to make sure they are dry and add the lids. Screw on as tight as you can. 

The canning of your pears happens by adding them to the boiling water using your tongs or jar lifting tool and letting them process for 40 minutes. This is convenient for yours truly because it takes about 45 minutes for chopped tomatoes and marinara sauce to process in a waterbath canning pot. Aren't I a lucky duck? Let's take this time to talk about canning and preserving food, and why you should be doing it. If you'd like to skip this, click here to go back to the recipe.

I am writing this in September of 2021, during the hopefully ending curve of a global pandemic, with the US still topping cases globally. I live in the USA and I personally am feeling disheartened as I'm seeing no end in sight. I am feeling even more disheartened because I am about to bring a new life into the world and I hoped to have introduced them to a better world than I had come into when I was a child. My own life has changed dramatically since February of 2020 in many ways, and I am still learning to adapt. 

One of the first things I did when I was furloughed like so many other Americans was to turn inward and decorate my home. I also began volunteer work and dove further into my relationships with local farms. I am so very fortunate to live in a part of the country where fertile lands span wide and small farms are able to sell fresh produce that I cannot grow myself for lack of space or expertise. For me, this includes squash, fruit trees, and other things that require more space than I have access to. With my own small garden, I grow cherry tomatoes, herbs, mulberries, and more strawberries than I often know what to do with. I have found that I'm also gifted in growing sunflowers, lilacs, roses, and more perennials to add to my local pollinator's diet. I find work now as a manual therapist and an herbalist, so this is excellent news for my tea-making business. While I navigate how I organize my space, however, I'll be growing less and less food because of it. 

Growing your own food is a wonderful joy that gives you a unique sense of self and confidence. It's highly relaxing to be able to witness life from start to finish and to be able to reap the benefits. I won't always be able to eat every single tomato that ripens, nor every strawberry or green bean or mint leaf when it's exactly ready, which is why teaching myself how to preserve the bounty of the harvest has been so important. Canning, drying, and freezing all of the food I've been able to produce has saved me not only money, but peace of mind, and that is something you cannot put a price on.

My husband and I will hopefully soon welcome our child in the late fall, when all things in nature come to fruition, so I'm sure I'll have absolutely no time or energy to be able to prepare foods or go to the store while caring for a newborn. I realize that not every new mother has the ability to stay at home with their new babies for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful that I'll be given more time than that to get to know my new little love. With a pantry that's full of the spring and summer's bounty, along with a full freezer, I'll know that I will have one less thing to worry about in the coming months. This is especially comforting for me to know since the Farmer's Almanac has been saying that the winter of 2021 will be one of the coldest and most bitter we've had in years. 

What does this have to do with you? Nothing, really. I suppose I'm telling you this because I want to share with you a piece of my own situation, in case you relate, and so that you may better understand why a full pantry with homemade canned goods that you've created with your own two hands will be beneficial to you. I personally don't want to be going out to the store in the middle of a cold winter and I doubt that you will, either. Canned and pickled fruit doesn't always sound like the best thing ever, but it's going to provide you with much-needed vitamins during those colder months when you're going to want a reminder of the summer.

When your timer goes off, remove your jars from the water bath and set them upon your wooden cutting board. Do not under any circumstances stick these in a cold area, especially the fridge, for at least 24 hours. What you'll want to do next is to move them to a place in the kitchen that they will be undisturbed and cover your jars with a clean tea towel. While you're cleaning up, don't be alarmed if you hear bubbling or popping sounds coming from the jars. This is the sound of air leaving and everything compressing and decompressing in the right way. This is all a good sign!

The next day, give your jars a good wipe and label them accordingly. Like I mentioned earlier, you can forego the bought labels and simply write the names and dates of the items on the top of the jars with a permanent marker. Don't worry - they'll come off using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol when you're ready to reuse them! Store the jars in a cool, dark place until you're ready to eat...I recommend at least waiting a week to get some good pickling flavor in there, but this will stay good for at least 6 months in the cabinet. You'll know if things go bad if the seal on the jar pops, if it starts going cloudy, or if the jar starts leaking for any reason. Otherwise, keep it cool! I will admit, though, I've got pickled fruits, jams, and jellies in my cabinet from two years ago that are still good. Please refrigerate after opening, though! And do try to use within the same month...



I love pickled pears because they're spicy, sour, and sweet, have a great texture, and are excellent on ice cream and cakes during the holidays. Of course, you can use it on a charcuterie board and have the jar open on the table for Thanksgiving or for the other fall and winter holidays, but these are just fine to eat out of the jar, or sliced up on a turkey sandwich. There are so many uses for pickled pears, and I hope you are curious enough to make some, too. The best part about pickling things is that you don't have to eat them straight away!

I hope you've enjoyed learning about pickling pears today. I truly hope I've inspired a bit of curiosity in your mind about preserving food and eating seasonally, and that you try this out for yourself this winter. Keep an eye on my Instagram, and I'm sure you'll see me break out a jar over the holidays. Heck, I might even put these straight into my caramel pear cake! 

Like this? Check it out here!

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Egg Drop Curry, Filipino Style

 



This will not be your traditionally authentic "Broken Egg" curry that you may find in Mumbai. Actually, I'd never even heard of "Broken Egg" or "Egg Drop" curry until my friend Sneha told me about it. If you're looking for something of a more South Asian flavor, may I offer you this wonderful recipe from My Ginger Garlic Kitchen? It's delicious, has gorgeous photos, and will guide you - step-by-step - on how to do it. This is a Filipino style curry...or should I say "kare"?

Please allow me to explain: If you're of Filipino descent or if you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, you've likely heard of the dish "kare-kare" which is an extremely delicious peanut and oxtail stew that has green beans and eggplant in it. My mom reports that her maids took four days of preparation to make it in the big house in Pampanga. I don't have four days of mental planning available to me at this time, so I'm going to do a quick version. My own Kare-kare is not nearly as extravagant as how they would prepare it in the Philippines, but I daresay it is quite tasty in its own right. Why is this important?

"Kare" is derived from "curry" as the Philippines has been a huge trade hub in the Southeast Asian seas since before the beginning of colonization. It is said that it's nearly impossible to say what is purely Filipino food because it's just so naturally diverse and has evolved to be the world's first-ever fusion cuisine. I thought it would be fun to try a "kare" version of this curry, and it turned out to be quite tasty. Here we go!

Egg Drop "Kare"

  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c raw peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp dried coriander
  • 1 /2 tsp dried cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 leaves basil
  • 2 Tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c fresh beans, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper, sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • Lots of Parsley or fresh coriander, chopped
  • Garlic rice, as needed, to serve
The day before*
Chop the tomatoes and add to a casserole dish with the chopped leek, garlic, and a generous glug of oil with some salt and pepper. Cover and roast for at least an hour and a half at 300 degrees F. You can also stick this in a crock pot at your lowest setting and leave it all day to stew. Allow it to cool in the fridge before using, ideally overnight, but will be fine if you do it early in the morning and let it cool all day in the fridge. 

The day of*
To a large Dutch oven or any thick-bottomed stewing pot with a lid, add a healthy glug of either coconut or canola oil and heat on a medium flame. Add all of your dried spices, along with your peanuts, and toast on medium-low until quite fragrant. This shouldn't take more than two or three minutes. After that, lower the heat and add the garam masala and basil, along with the stewed tomato mixture from earlier. Allow this to stew on low for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil before turning off the heat. 

Add your mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 1 minute. Turn the blender up to medium and blend for a full 2 minutes, or until absolutely everything has been pulverized. Add the lovely orange-red mixture back into the pot and rinse out the blender with two cups of warm water to get the extra goodies off the sides before adding that all together. 



Add your chopped beans - I had green beans and long beans from the farmers market and CSA, so I used those. I also had some gorgeous bell peppers and fresh onions, and these are classic flavors in kare kare, which is the meaty Filipino stew that usually has beans and eggplant in it. Since we're only going for a nod to kare kare as well as traditional masala curry, we'll be sticking to the beans alone. Either way, now is the time to add your fresh vegetables and stir in to coat.

You can now turn off the heat at this point and let this mixture hang out until you're ready to serve it. This is an excellent make-ahead meal that you can even make in large quantities and freeze in bags for later! If you'd like to continue making it, please read on. 

Prepare any rice you plan on serving with. If you'd like to add an extra protein to this dish, you may add chopped chicken thighs, seitan, tofu, etc., but I don't believe it's necessary. This is a wonderful vegetarian dish that's high in folate and protein from the peanuts and eggs!

When you're ready to serve, simply bring your curry mixture to a gentle simmer over a low flame until it is hot. Taste for salt at this point and ready your eggs. You can crack an egg and pop it directly in to the simmering broth, but I like to be a little gentle with mine by cracking each egg into a small bowl or cup individually to ensure that I don't get any bits of shell inside. 

As the name suggests, drop the egg in and let the curry broth accept it into its embrace. The trick is to drop the egg from about four inches above the surface of the curry so that it creates a hole for itself, lest it just sit on top. Repeat this in a clockwise motion until you've used all the eggs you want to use. Cover and set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is up, simply turn off the heat and let sit for another 2 minutes before serving over rice and garnishing with lots and lots of parsley.



I love this dish because it is creamy, nutty, and somehow bright, but it is an excellent 'end of summer' dish to use up all of those seemingly random vegetables that you may not know what to do with. Even better, the peanuts are high in folic acid, which I - as a human that is currently growing a human - very much need. Peppers, tomatoes, and green beans? Not a usual combo for the average American - at least not as far as I've seen - but I think they go great together with this dish. Surprisingly, my husband loved it too, even though it was a vegetarian meal.

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope you have a wonderful morning, evening, or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Brined and Fried Potatoes with Rosemary

 


Alright, alright - you don't get these potatoes out of the sea. You do, however, boil them in a brine to give them a salty crust around the outside. This seasons them perfectly, allows you to keep useful vitamins inside by boiling them inside the skin, and lets you have potatoes in a way you may not have ever had them before. I first learned the brine-boiling technique in culinary school, back before the earth's crust cooled. I don't remember who or what put it in my head to smash and then fry them on a griddle, but I've been hooked ever since. It's easily one of my favorite ways to cook waxy potatoes, and it's especially fun to present these at a summer party while people get to ask "oooh how did you do that?!" 

Here's how you do it!

Brined and Fried Potatoes with Rosemary
serves 4

  • 16-20 waxy potatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 c kosher salt
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Good olive oil or butter as needed
  • Fresh herbs, finely minced
    • Flat leaf parsley, rosemary, and garlic chives are lovely
A quick note on waxy potatoes:

Generally speaking, potatoes can be categorized into two groups: the starchy and the waxy types. Your standard starchy potatoes will be your big Idaho potatoes that you'd likely use as baking potatoes. Most agree that these are best for mashing or for making latkes because they're full of - you guessed it! - starch. Waxy potatoes are thin-skinned and will be the kind you'll see in the supermarket that will be either red, yellow, or even blue. You can eat the skins of both kinds, but most prefer to eat the skins of the waxy ones because the skin is quite thin. I was fortunate enough to receive beautiful waxy potatoes from the farm this week, but if you're buying from the store then select "B" potatoes, which correlate to the size of the ones I used.


The real trick to cooking potatoes is to start them in cold water. Begin with your washed potatoes in a medium saucepot and cover with the water and kosher salt. Add your bay leaf and rosemary and turn on your stove to a high flame to cook. Once your water boils, set your timer for 15 minutes. Yes, that's right - you're boiling for 15 minutes, not simmering.

When your timer is up, check your potatoes for doneness. When pierced with a small paring knife, they should give little-to-no resistance. Evacuate immediately from the brine and let air dry in a colander or some other container in which plenty of airflow will occur. The next part of this fun chemical reaction will depend on the temperature of the air versus the temperature of the potato. I do advise you, however, to not stick these in the fridge! Just let these cool naturally on the counter and watch the magic happen. This "magic" will take at least 15 minutes but it's truly better to make these an hour or so ahead of your planned meal so that they can truly cool and crust over with a pretty brine of salt. While we're waiting, let's have a little chat about potatoes!



When you think of them, most Americans will think of Ireland. The fact of the matter is, though, that potatoes originate from South America, specifically Peru. There are over 4,000 different varieties of potatoes, most of which are in the Andes. I feel like potatoes get a lot of flack for not being 'healthy' starches, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Shall I explain? I was hoping I'd be able to.

I could go over hundreds of words' worth of why culinary anthropology and nutritional science clash on this, and it would cover everything from colonialism to societal norms to lifestyles to times of the year to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel to - oh my I've gone cross-eyed... The point: 

Calories needed to be efficient to run empires

Let's say you're a farmer, way back in the past. You have two fields, side-by-side. Let's say that each field is about an acre, and it is your sole responsibility to till and care for this field. Let's say you plant spinach in one field and potatoes in the other. I realize that spinach is a leafy green and potatoes are a starch but bear with me.

The spinach is fast-growing and you'll almost immediately get a harvest. You can harvest some every day, in fact, for a daily meal! Harvesting spinach, though, en masse, is hard work for not a lot of calories. You can feed yourself a salad of spinach and while they are full of iron and vitamins, think of how much spinach cooks down to almost nothing when applied to heat. Furthermore, you're only going to get a few harvests out of spinach before it gets hot...and you can't store it for later. But, hey, once it gets too hot for the spinach, you can till up the field and plant a new crop. Whee. More work.

Now look over into your potato field. When your potato greens begin to brown and die back, you can take your pitch fork and harvest, straight out of the ground. An acre of potatoes versus an acre of spinach - by volume - is going to be quite a bit higher for the same amount of ground you've used. Even better, you can have two or three smaller potatoes per person, per day, and the rest can store well. Calorie-wise, the potato is much more efficient, and therefore it's better for a hard day's work. But what about the vitamins?!

Oddly enough, potatoes are a moderate source of iron, phosphorus, calcium, and a surprisingly good provider of vitamin C for being a starch. Potatoes are quite healthy for you! So let's not bash on the beautiful and humble potato anymore, shall we? They're an excellent grain that helped build the Incan empire. 




When your potatoes are cool enough to handle, you're ready to heat them for your meal. To cook them, I use my cast iron griddle on high heat with a good quality olive oil. Simply take them on a clean flat surface and press them down with either a fork or wide spatula to create the messy disc shape. You can also use the flat of your hand to get this effect.



When your oil is hot, all that must be done is fry all of your smashed potatoes. Mine take about 3 minutes per side on medium-high heat because I love a good brown color. In the meantime, mince your herbs for garnish. I had this gorgeous flat-leaf parsley as well as fresh rosemary, and I chopped this together with some garlic chives from my garden. I invite you to use whichever fresh herbs you prefer for this garnish!

To serve, simply transfer to a serving dish and garnish it. Take loads of pictures and get ready for some compliments, because these are simply fabulous. I suggest serving these alongside anything from a grilled fish dish to a simple meatloaf. If you fry them hard enough, you can even pick them up with your hands and dip them in ketchup. I love them as a summer food, especially, because you can zest them up with herbs, lemon, whatever you like. Heck, put ranch all over them! 

I hope you've enjoyed spending this time with me. I must admit that I racked my brain quite a bit to think of a potato recipe that the average bear may not have tried before. I hope that this fit the bill. Even if it's too late to get involved with a CSA program, get yourself down to a farmers market and get yourself some beautiful fresh produce. The farmer is the legs on which the country stands, so show them some love and respect by buying directly. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!