Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Watermelon Pickles

This is fair week in both Sedalia, Missouri and Springfield, Illinois. Here in the agricultural states, fairs are a very big deal. So much excellence and personal pride on display. Barns and barns full of the showiest livestock and most beautiful produce. Missouri has a big wine competition, and of course there are competitons for baked goods, preserves, and many culinary acheivements. Since I couldn't make it to the fair this year, I thought I'd still enjoy the spirit of the events by putting up some watermelon rind pickles of my own.

I took a recipe from "State Fair Recipes" a compilation of blue ribbon winning recipes put together by Catherine Hanley. I used a recipe from Elaine Pretz from Portland Oregon. The pickles won a blue ribbon at the Oregon state fair, I don't know the year, but the book was published in 1993.

1 watermelon rind
1 cup pickling salt
2 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon allspice
5 pieces cinnamon stick
6 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 orange thinly sliced
extra cinnamon sticks to place inside the jars for garnish, optional

Trim all dark green and pink from the rind.

Cut the rind into 1 1/2" pieces.

Place 4 quarts of rind in a crock and brine it with the salt disolved in the cold water overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the rind and rinse well.

Put the rind in a kettle and cover with cold water, bring the pot to the boil and simmer the rind for 8 minutes, drain.

Wash the kettle and add the sugar, water, and vinegar. Make a cheesecloth sachet for the allspice, cloves, and cinnamon and add it to the syrup.

Boil the syrup for about 5 minutes until it begins to thicken, add the rind and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the melon turns opaque, turn off the heat and let the melon cool in the syrup for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile sterilize the jars and lids, bring the melon back to the boil and pack carefully into pint jars, ladle in extra boiling syrup to cover melon, leaving 1/4" head space at the top. Add a cinnamon stick to the jar if you like.

Place the lids on the jars and secure with rings, process the jars in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

Pickles need to rest for about 6 weeks before opening to achieve the best flavor.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paula Wolfert's 7 Day Preserved Lemons

I met Paula Wolfert several years ago when she was on a book tour promoting her book "The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean". It was a a cocktail reception for her, I can't remember who gave it, but the restaurant was beautiful-the food not so much. I'm such a big fan of hers, that I'm afraid I monopolised her much of the evening. Her recipes are always reliable as well as thoroughly researched-they are usually a sociology lesson as well.

Preserved lemons are a Moroccan ingredient used in many tajines, stews, and couscous dishes. But they are so versatile and are beautiful with anything fish, chicken or veal. Once made they last in the refrigerator for months. So I'll make this batch and they will be used up this winter in several recipes to come. I doubled the recipe to make a quart.

4 lemons, washed and quartered
2/3 cup kosher salt
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

Toss the lemon quarters with the salt and pack into a glass jar.

Muddle the lemons and salt with a wooden spoon.

Pour in enough fresh lemon juice to cover the lemons.

Let the lemons sit at room temperature for 7 days, shaking the jar each day to redistribute the juice and salt.

Add olive oil to top and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

Fresh Blueberry Daiquiri

1 cup fresh blueberries

juice of 1/2 lime

1 cup ice

1/2 cup silver rum

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Whip in the blender and pour into your favorite glass, garnish with a lime twist.

Perfect for Summer Sunday afternoons.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Griddled Sweet Potato Polenta With Apple-smoked Bacon Greens

We're big fans of greens around here. They are abundant at the farmer's markets right now. Of course, cornbread is what most people serve with their greens, but I thought some polenta would work well and I wouldn't have to heat the oven for corn bread.

1 sweet potato, roasted al dente, cooled, peeled, and cut into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, caramelised in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of sugar
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup yellow corn meal

In a sauce pan, sweat the carlic in oil over low heat for 1 or 2 minutes, add the stock and bring it to the boil.

Whisk in the corn meal, whisking constantly to prevent lumps and bring it back to the boil.

Lower the heat and cook the polenta for 25 minutes to 1/2 hour, stirring often.

Fold in the onions and sweet potato, and pour into a 9" cake pan lined with parchment paper let chill and set up.

Unmold the polenta and cut it into wedges and griddle or grill them until they are browned and crispy.

For the greens:
1 bunch each of collards, turnip, and mustard greens, washed thoroughly. Cut out eh ribs and slice the greens.
2 rashers of apple smoked bacon cut in to 1" pieces and crisped in a skillet large enough to hole the greens.
1/2 cup onion slices, browned in the bacon drippings.

Add the greens to the bacon drippings and bacon, toss until the green begin to wilt, add 1 cup of chicken stock, season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste-greens can be bitter and a little sugar tames them. Simmer until the greens are tender, adding more stock if necessary-about 1/2 hour is all that is needed at this point.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Rainbow Orzo and Corn Salad with Fresh Basil

St Louis is sweltering this week. It has cooled slightly, but really hot again today. We've been lucky enough to have been invited to a barbeque pool party ths afternoon. I'll be taking this light salad.

1/2 pound rainbow orzo, cooked al dente

Corn from two cooked ears of corn, scraped

1/4 minced onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients and let marinate a couple of hours or overnight.

Basil and fresh corn are so right for one another-they are definitely the Brangelina of summer foods. Chiffonade is a simple technique for slicing delicate herbs and lettuces. Simply stack the leaves on top of one another and roll them up jelly roll style, then slice into thin strips. If you try to mince basil or hit the herb too hard with the knife it turns black, this technique cuts it up and preserves the color-some people use scissors.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Poblano Peppers

I picked up these beautiful Poblanos at farmer's market last week. I roasted these peppers, and gently made a slit in the side and carefully removed the core and seeds. I stuffed them with a mixture of black beans, rice, and corn, topped with some queso fresco. In cooler weather I would probably bake them in a chili sauce, but I just served them at room temperature and they were just perfect-spicy and sweet-very summery.

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked black beans
corn, scraped from 2 ears of corn
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 cup diced onion, sauteed
1 clove garlic, minced and sauteed
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of he ingredients.

Gently stuff the roasted peppers with the mixture and top with some crumbled queso fresco.