Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Naturally Fermented "Crock" Garlic Dill Pickles

If you want honest-to-goodness dill pickles, you have to do it the old-fashioned way.
If the fermentation thing is not for you, don't give up on making a great pickle.

 Dill pickles are a lot like sauerkraut in that in that bacteria rather than yeast are responsible for the fermentation.  They will break apart the sugars in the cukes and create cabon dioxide, some alcohol, and lactic acid.  This acid is extremely unfriendly to the types of bacteria that ordinarily cause spoilage, which means that lactic acid is a preservative.   Besides acting as a preservative, lactic acid has a much better flavor than the acid that flavors vinegar-cured pickles

Just a little science lesson in case you are worried about that.
Health Benefits of Fermented Pickles

If you really get into pickling, get yourself a crock.  I bought this last year to make some homemade sauerkraut.  You can also use a one-gallon jar to make these pickles.  With the jar you can see what's happening as the pickles start to do their thing!

2 Tbsp. pickling salt or kosher salt*, or sea salt
1 quart distilled water
3 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 15)
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. mustard seed
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh dill
6 grape leaves (optional)***

  • Wash your crock or gallon jar in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
  • Combine the salt and water in a pitcher and stir until the salt is dissolved
  • Rinse the cucumbers and trim off the blossom end.
  • Put 3 grape leaves (if using), the peppercorns, mustard seed, garlic and half of the fresh dill into your crock or jar.  
  • Add cucumbers and top with remaining dill and grape leaves.
  • Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers to completely cover them.
  • Pour the remaining water into a 1 gallon zip top bag and seal.  Place the bag on top of the pickles, making sure that all of them are completely submerged in the brine and covered by at least 2 inches.  The crock I have has weights for this purpose.  If using a jar, cover loosely with a kitchen towel or cheesecloth.
Set in a cool, dry place.
That's it - your done!

Follow Comfy Cuisine on Pinterest for more recipes!

From here on out, think of this crock as your virtual pet.  It doesn't need to be walked or talked to (unless you want to). 

Check the crock after 3 days.  Fermentation has begun if you see bubbles rising to the top of the crock.  After this, check daily and skim off any foam or gunk that forms.  If it forms on the zip-top bag, rinse it off and return to the top of the crock.

The fermentation is complete when the pickles taste sour and the bubbles have stopped rising.  This takes about 6-7 days.  I started checking mine on day 4.  They were almost ready.
Day 5 - A Perfect Pickle

The pickles will be half-sour in about 4 or 5 days, and very sour in about 10 days.  Store in the refrigerator in tightly closed jars.  Pour some strained brine into the jars to cover the pickles.
They will keep for about two months, assuming they have not been eaten long before.

If you have some extra brine and a few kirbys left, just cut them into spears, pack them in the brine with a few of the spices and stick them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

*Kosher salt tends to leave the brine cloudy - this is perfectly normal and safe and will settle.
**Some information was taken from Good Eats3
***Grape leaves are a natural way to encourage crispness because those leaves have tannins.  My neighbor has a grape vine. (I only took six!)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Potatoes Gratin

A casserole of creamy potatoes beneath a layer of bubbly cheese.
Few things are more satisfying than a crusty gratin, straight from the oven.
These are not your everyday potatoes - save this recipe for a special occasion!
You could replace the half and half with whole milk for everyday meals.

5 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt to taste
6 large waxy potatoes (such as red bliss)
2 cups half and half
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated cheese (Swiss, Provolone, Parmesan)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease an 8-inch square baking dish or gratin dish with 1 tbsp. of the butter and set aside.  

Peel potatoes and rinse to remove any dirt from the skin.  Using a mandoline, slice potatoes into 1/8 - 1/4 inch rounds.

In a large saute pan, melt remaining 4 tbsp. butter.  Add sliced potatoes, garlic and half and half.  Season with salt pepper and nutmeg.  Cook stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender and the mixture has thickened, about 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, smoothing the top.  Sprinkle the cheese over the gratin and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 15-20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.
Adapted from Saveur

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Colavita Summer Grilling Recipes + Giveaway!

Most of us have been to wine tastings.  It's a fun and interesting way to try new wines, pair them with food and expand your tastebuds.  Have you ever thought of having an Olive Oil Tasting?  The generous folks at Colavita asked me to host a Summer Grilling party with olive oils, cheeses and dessert - all made on the grill!  I received some olive oils from around the world to pair with these delicious summer recipes.  

We started off with Classic Brushcetta on crispy, grilled semolina bread to get the party started!
Classic Italian Bruschetta

8 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/3 cup Vidalia onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano slivers
Semolina bread

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Cut an "X" in the bottom of each tomato.  Submerge in water for about 1 minute.  Rinse in cold water and peel.  Remove core and seeds and cut into cubes.  Add onion, garlic, basil, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Let marinate for at least one hour.  Grill slices of semolina until lightly charred.  Brush with a small amount of olive oil and top with tomato mixture.  Top with slivers of cheese.

Before the main course, we tasted some of the olive oils from around the world.  It's a nice way to break the ice and get some good conversation going!  It was interesting to see what everyone liked!  Some are peppery while others have a strong fruit flavor that finishes off differently as you taste.

Just cut up some cubes of crusty bread, pour each of the oils into a small dish and start dunking!

For the main course grilled, boneless chicken breasts.

Chimichurri Chicken 
Chimichurri is an essential part of Argentinean cuisine; a bowl of chimichurri can be found on every dinner table. Chimichurri is typically served with steak, but it's also great on grilled fish and chicken.

Chimichurri can also be used as a marinade.  I made a double batch.  One to marinate the chicken and another batch to serve on the side.  This marinade has so much fresh flavor and really made this grilled chicken unforgettable!
5 large boneless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved horizontally and pounded thin.
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried
1/2 cup Colavita Spanish Olive Oil 
(best choices:  Extra Virgin, Spanish, Greek or Argentinian)
2 Tbsp. Colavita red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Process the fresh herbs in a food processor along with all other ingredients.  Pour marinade over chicken and refrigerate 3-4 hours. Serve immediately if using as a condiment or refrigerate.  If chilled return to room temperature before serving.

For dessert - use your grill!  Toasted, grilled pound cake is delicious topped with fresh berries and a sweet/tangy balsamic glaze.

Grilled Pound Cake with Strawberries and Balsamic Glaze

2 cups Colavita Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. honey or brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan.  Reduce to a simmer and add the honey or brown sugar.  Cook until reduced by half and thickened, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with salt.  Let cool completely.

Grill slices of pound cake.  Top with fresh strawberry slices and drizzle balsamic glaze over berries and cake.  Top with whipped cream or strawberry ice cream.

Colavita is not just Olive Oil!  Browse through the COLAVITA STORE for pasta, risotto, tomatoes, sweets/coffee, gourmet gifts and more using COUPON CODE CC15  for 15% off your online purchase.  This code will be active through August 11, 2014.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Recipes adapted from Olive Oil and Food Pairing Guide
Ingredients courtesy of Colavita

Friday, July 18, 2014

Slow-Cooker Turkey with Gravy

It's the middle of summer and I get a craving for a turkey dinner.  When the summer season starts, you can't wait for that first grilled hamburger or hot dog!  When November comes, you can't wait for that Turkey!  Never a happy medium!  You can make a delicious turkey dinner in your slow cooker without much work at all and without turning on your oven!  We can never get enough gravy - and this recipe makes a full quart!  Plenty for leftovers and sandwiches.

You can make as many sides as you like or just use for some hot turkey sandwiches!  I made a small batch of homemade stuffing, some creamy mashed sweet potatoes and of course some cranberry sauce.  It really hit the spot!

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (you could also add some celery, carrot or garlic)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 springs fresh thyme
  • 4-7 pound bone-in turkey breast, trimmed(remove backbone and extra skin or fat)
  • Salt, pepper and paprika

Pat turkey breast dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Melt butter in slow-cooker pot over medium heat.  (If you slow-cooker does not have a browning setting, you can do this on your stove top.)  Brown turkey breast, skin side down, about 5 minutes, transfer to plate.

Add onion to fat left in the pan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minutes.  Stir in broth and water and whisk to smooth out any lumps.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all browned bits stuck on bottom of pot.  Add thyme.  Place turkey, breast side down in with with any accumulated juices.  Cover pot and cook on LOW setting for 5-6 hours or until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees F.

Carefully transfer the turkey breast to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest while preparing gravy.  

Strain the liquid in the slow cooker into a saucepan.  Let settle for about 5 minutes and them skim off fat from the surface.  Bring the gravy to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  If you would like your gravy a little thicker, whisk together a slurry of flour and cold water (about 1 Tbsp. water with 2 Tbsp. water), and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes.  Season the salt and pepper as desired.

Carve the turkey and serve with hot gravy.  This is a great recipe for a Sunday dinner, or for a small family gathering at Thanksgiving.  It couldn't be easier!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vidalia Fried Onion Rings

There are so many delicious things to look forward to in the summer.  Fresh garden tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, and sweet Vidalia Onions.  Nothing like a thick slice, raw on a juicy grilled burger!

I have tried doing a batter fried onion ring many times, but none compared to this recipe!  That's how good this one is.  The batter was light and crisp and the seasoned flour gave them such a great flavor!  The coating did not fall off and remained crispy even though they had cooled off slightly.  You could keep them warm in a low oven if you are making a large batch.  

1 large Vidalia Onion
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cholula (or other hot sauce) to taste, but at least 1 Tablespoon
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
2-3 cups canola or peanut oil

Slice off the top and root end of the onion and peel off outer skins.  Slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick slices and separate into rings.

In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper and the Cholula.  Add the onions and toss well to make sure everything is coated.  Cover and refrigerate and let marinate several hours or overnight.

In a large zip lock bag, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper the cayenne and the thyme. Set aside.

When ready to fry, pour the oil into a heavy skillet and heat to 350 degreesF (using a thermometer if you have one).  

Lift the rings out of the buttermilk and place in the seasoned flour.  Shake gently until well coated.  Working in batches, drop onion rings into hot oil and fry until golden brown, flipping over until all sides are golden brown.  Remove from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towel.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Classic French Onion Soup

You know it.  You love it.

Molten hot soup with caramelized onions in a rich, beef broth covered with lots of melted cheese that comes up right up in strings with the first spoonful.

This is an easy version that might not be the French recipe the Julia Child would make, but it serves 2-3 people if you want to serve it as a soup course.
You can certainly make your own beef broth - My recipe for Homemade Savory Beef Broth - but in the warmer months, it's easier to use a good store bought broth.
I prefer to top mine with some Parmesan and Mozzarella.
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 lbs. sweet onions (2 large) halved and sliced thin
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 heaping Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Shredded cheese of your choice (Swiss, Provolone, Mozzarella)
Parmesan cheese

Add butter to stock pot and cook until melted.  Add onions,  2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, brown sugar and thyme.  Cook onions over medium heat until onions are softened and deep golden brown (20-30 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a simmer.  Simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.  Mix flour and soy sauce to form a slurry.  Whisk in to soup and whisk until smooth.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Arrange bread slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake until bread is golden at edges, about 10 minutes.
Turn oven to BROIL.

Divide toasted bread into soup bowls or crocks.  Top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Ladle hot soup into bowl until full.  Top with plenty of mozzarella (or cheese of your choice), and broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chopped Philly Cheesesteak

 It goes without saying, that when in Philadelphia, you must stop and get a cheesesteak sandwich.  I'm sure you have all heard about the feud between Geno's and Pat's - we went to Pat's King of Steaks.  Geno's is directly across the street.
 The line was around the corner as you can see.  This place is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There is a sign that explains how you have to order.  You ask for your sandwich and then you say "wit" or "wit-out" -
which means with or without onions.  That's a Philly accent for you.  My Jersey accent almost compares, "you wanna cuppa cawfee"?  The sandwich was delicious and I was determined to try to make one at home.

The trick to a really good cheesesteak sandwich is to slice the beef paper thin.  A true Philly Cheesesteak sandwich is made with Rib Eye steak sliced on a deli slicer and chopped as it cooks on a flatop griddle.

Since most of us don't have a deli slicer or a flat top, how can we get the same great taste and tender meat that you get in Philly?

2 lbs. skirt steak
Yellow or White American cheese(or Cheez Wiz or Provolone)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Sub Rolls

Slice skirt steak into 3" pieces going along the grain of the meat.  Place on tray and freeze for 30 minutes.

When meat is frozen, using a sharp knife, slice the meat AGAINST the grain into thin slices - as thin as you can make them.  

Slice through the meat again going with the grain into chopped pieces of steak.

In a medium saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over high heat until just smoking.  Brown half the meat at a time cooking about 3-4 minutes on one side.  Lower the heat to medium, turn meat over and cook an additional 1-2 minutes or until no longer pink.  Add steak to a small colander to drain and remove any excess grease.

Return steak to saute pan.  Add salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Layer slices of American cheese over steak and cook on low until cheese begins to melt.  Stir cheese into steak.
Serve on sub rolls with hot or sweet pepper, sauteed onions and ketchup if you like.

The steak is slightly crispy but tender and juicy.

Makes 4 sandwiches
~Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

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