Monday
May162011

Quick Pickled Carrots

Most of what you see in the grocery store that is picked are cucumbers. There is a reason why pickled cucumbers are, in the American vocabulary, simply called "pickles". Still, if you look hard enough, you can find other vegetables that have been pickled, such as cauliflower, peppers, and carrots.

There are a couple of ways of pickling things. The first is a fermented pickle, where you let natural processes and time encourage a complex flavor. The other method is the quick pickle, where you mix all your flavorings together, heat them up, and have your snack ready in just a couple of days. I went for the latter for my first pickling experience.

I made a variation on Alton Brown's Firecrackers, which are spicy, sweet carrots. It turns out that all of my dried peppers on my pepper shelf in the pantry (I am not joking about the dried pepper shelf; it is next to the jam shelf) are relatively mild. Apparently I was out of dried hot peppers. Still, no reason not to continue on.

Start with the carrots, put into jars. The original recipe called for one big jar, but I just had little jars, so little jars it was.

QuickPickles 1

Take your dried pepper or peppers

QuickPickles 4

and if it's too large to put into the jar on its own, cut it up and divvy

QuickPickles 11

Get your spices (mustard seed, crushed red pepper, and onion powder)…

QuickPickles 18

Actually, those aren't red pepper flakes. I had run out of those, too. But I had lots of dried chiles, so I just grabbed some seeds and flakes from those. Crushed red pepper is just the skin and seeds of chiles that have been, yes, crushed. And I already had the skin, so I added some seeds for a little bit of heat.

Combine the salt, sugar, water, vinegar, and spices, and heat to boil for 4 minutes.

QuickPickles 19

Put your canning funnel over the jar

QuickPickles 21

and pour the hot liquid in.

QuickPickles 23

Loosely cover  once it's cooled and let sit for 2-7 days. Ta-Dah!

These were tasty and sweet. All of the ingredients I had lying around, which is the best way when you are canning. Naturally, if you see some lovely full carrots in the grocery store or farmer's market, cut them up into sticks of whatever size you like best and preserve those instead of the lathed carrots.

Naturally, you can vary this recipe, even more than I did. Keep the amount of vinegar, salt, sugar, and water the same, and feel free to sub out the vegetables or especially the herbs and spices. There are recipes for quick pickled vegetables with just salt, but Ruhlman says to use a 3% (by weight) salt-to-water brine for your pickles, and things will be well.

Thursday
May122011

Bran Muffins

There was a good period of time where every morning I would go to a local coffee place, buy a muffin and a mocha, and get on with my day. These were fine days, but expensive and probably not all that healthy for me.

Instead, now we have a ritual where we make a bunch of what are known as s-week bran muffins, because the batter can apparently be kept for six weeks without going bad, and we bake a batch every day and a half or so. Each of us as two muffins and a cappuccino for breakfast, and we go about our way with more money in our pocket, less time wasted in line at the coffee store, and with plenty of whole grain goodness in us (or at least bran goodness, I suppose).

You make the batter at least the night before; it requires an overnight rest in the fridge before it's ready to be muffinized. The procedure is simple, and is really the Muffin Method, as you can imagine. The Muffin Method is: mix dry; mix wet; combine wet and dry until just mixed. In this instance, sugar counts as a dry ingredient.

In a Big Ol' Bowl, mix your flour:

Bran Muffins 1

Sugar:

Bran Muffins 3

Baking soda:

Bran Muffins 7

Spices:

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And bran flakes (you can certainly use raisin bran, if that's your thing. We do not.):

Bran Muffins 19

And stir. If you have a flour stirrer, all the better, but I wouldn't run out to get one just for this:

Bran Muffins 27

Bran Muffins 32

until well combined. In a glass container, mix your oil:

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AYFS Spiced Rum Vanilla Extract (or whatever vanilla extract you have. Heck, we've even used almond extract before):

Bran Muffins 35

Eggs:

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And mix to combine and break up the egg:

Bran Muffins 41

Add the egg mixture and the buttermilk to the dry team:

Bran Muffins 46

And mix:

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Until combined:

Bran Muffins 68

Set this aside in the refrigerator overnight or longer. When the time is come to bake, use a disher or ice cream scoop to add to lightly-sprayed cupcake papers:

Bran Muffins baking 5

And bake:

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Serve and enjoy. There are plenty of variations you co do to this. Add some molasses or maple syrup to the sugar for brown sugar. Play with the spices or extract. Add some dried cranberries, blueberries, or, if you insist, raisins. But this will keep at least a week and apparently six weeks if, and this is important, you don't store it in a metal bowl. It gets weird in a metal bowl after a while. The baked muffins will last at least a day. I wouldn't stretch it too far after baking, though.

Bran Muffins baking 11

Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 15 oz Bran Flakes
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • 1 quart buttermilk

Directions (The Muffin Method)

  1. Mix flour, baking soda, sugar, spices, and salt.
  2. Stir into dry ingredients Bran Flakes.
  3. Beat eggs and combine with vegetable oil and vanilla
  4. Add egg mixture and buttermilk to dry ingredients.
  5. Stir to combine.
  6. Refrigerate overnight up to six weeks in a non-metalic container.

Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Portion out batter into baking cups in a muffin tin.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The muffin shouldn't give when you press it lightly.

Makes 4 dozen muffins.

 

Thursday
May052011

Infused Oil

There is a pretty good trade to be done in the infused oil realm. After all, oil is a good medium to store flavors that are otherwise temporary: herbs, zest, spices, truffles, and so on. Normally, you expect the herbs to wilt or the zest to fade shortly after it's been harvested, but if you soak those flavorful items in some oil, then it's locked away for months of future use.

The doing is extremely simple. I took some herbs (thyme and sage, in this case), peppercorns, and lime zest.

Infused Oil 1

Infused Oil 2

Heated some mid-grade olive oil to 215°F, which is hot enough to kill most bacteria and draw out the flavors of the herbs etc., but not so much as to break down the tasty flavors.

Infused Oil 7

I poured the oil into the mason jar with the flavorings, and listened to the sizzle of the herbs:

Infused Oil 8

Covered with a kitchen towel to leave overnight:

Infused Oil 16

And then I strained the remaining oil into another container for long-term use.

Infused Oil 19

The technique is simple. The flavors are great. And there's no reason you have to stop there. You could do this with clarified butter or even brown butter. You could even infuse some lard for an exceptionally flavorful pie crust. You can play with the flavor profiles, and use ground espresso beans for an oil to top ricotta, for example. Would it work well? No idea. But it's pretty easy to find out, and a great thing to make your own.

It's worth mentioning that garlic is not one of the better things to infuse at home. Garlic can contain botulism, and botulism takes more than our little bit of heating to kill, especially if you use large chunks of garlic. If you need a garlic oil, stick with store-bought or find a better method of making it than this one.

Wednesday
May042011

Caesar Salad Dressing

DISCLAIMER: This recipe includes raw egg yolk.

This salad dressing is a huge step up in complication from the vinaigrette. Which doesn't say a lot.

Worcestershire sauce (not pictured) is also typically among the ingredients. It's also typically something in my cabinet. Imagine my surprise. The dressing works perfectly well without it.

Separate an egg yolk and place it in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped anchovies (it's like half an anchovies), a pinch of salt, and a grind or two of fresh pepper.

Whisk that all up, and start to drizzle in a half cup of olive oil. Continue whisking while drizzling the olive oil in, and you'll soon get an emulsion. 

If you need to stop pouring for a second to mix better, feel free. Fold in sever hearty shakes of parmesan cheese and toss with romaine lettuce.

Serve with croutons.

Ingredients:

1 large egg yolk

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 of one anchovie, finely chopped

a pinch of salt

a couple of grinds of fresh pepper

3 shakes of parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, if you don't forget it.

Procedure:

1. Mix everything put the olive oil and parmesan cheese.

2. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. 

3. Fold in the parmesan cheese.

4. Toss with the salad.

Monday
May022011

Vinaigrette 

Vinaigrette is probably the quickest salad dressing you can whip up. And the one your make will be at least as good as any store bought brand. This took me maybe two minutes start to finish.

That's pretty simple. I also put some fresh ground pepper in (not pictured).

I used the Ruhlmanian ratio of three parts (by weight) oil to 1 part vinegar. 

By volume you'll use a lot less vinegar, being water based it is much more dense than the oil. Add a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Beat for 30 second to a minute with a wisk, and it will be nice and even.

Toss the salad with the vinaigrette, then plate and top with croutons.

This has a remarkably clean and simple taste that really pops. Feel free to play around with different oils and vinegars, including balsamic vinegars.

Ingredients:

60 grams olive oil

20 grams red wine vinegar 

a pinch of salt

a couple of grinds of fresh pepper

Procedure:

1. Combine in a bowl

2. Mix 

3. There is no step 3.