Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hot Date

The morning was beautiful - cool and low humidity, a perfect day to heat up the kitchen. Greg and I spent last Sunday canning vegetables. Some from Leslie, some from the farmer's market, and some from our own backyard garden. Yes, this was our "Hot Date".
I started the day with this: Blanche the corn for a few minutes in boiling water, then pop it into a sink of ice water to stop the cooking. While the first batch cooled in the water, the second batch was cooking. It didn't take long to get them all cooked and cooled. After that, out came the electric knife:
Yes, after I finished, Greg checked to make sure I still had all ten digits. I tend to have a little difficulty with sharp things in the kitchen...
The corn was bagged and frozen. Twenty-three ears of corn yielded six quart-sized bags with between 3 and four cups of corn in each.
This will probably be used in cornbread and casserole recipes. Greg works in corn every day, so we don't eat much of it at home, with the exception of sweet corn season. Yum!
Always label and date your freezer bags - obviously this is corn, so I saved some ink and just put the date on these.
Next up were the green beans. Oh, the green beans! It's amazing how huge a quantity a WalMart bag will hold. (Thanks Leslie!)
These were cleaned, trimmed of both ends, and snapped into pieces between 1 and 2" long.
I purchased a brand new pressure canner to do the beans - yeah, this year the garden isn't really saving much money... :o)
Neither Greg nor I have ever used a pressure canner, so Greg studied the user guide while I cleaned the beans. The first batch was a little tense, but with the successful sealing of all the jars, we relaxed a little bit.
The second batch went much smoother. We ended up with several pints and several quarts of beans. Just a spoonful of salt in each jar for flavor.

So while the last batch of beans cooked, we started on the pickles. Oh, the pickles! I had a small bag of cukes from Leslie, then Greg headed out to the garden and brought in a pile of our own. We used the same recipe I posted before, and there are now enough dill pickles to last the winter, I think. We'll be moving on to some different flavors next time.
Even though we both just melt, and we each have our opinions, I do enjoy having Greg help out with this canning process. There will be at least a few more hot dates in our kitchen in the next few weeks. :o)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chipping Away at the Garden

Leslie has been very generous with her garden bounty and it's been fun to play with recipes and new ways to enjoy favorite veggies. I think the red potatoes she grew have been particularly tasty.
As I made my menu plan for last week, I decided to add homemade potato chips for something a little different. Greg took on this task as I put together the beef and sage sliders for that meal.

He got out the Pampered Chef mandoline and cut the potato slices uber-thin, then fried them at 375 degrees F for a few minutes. After removing from the oil, he sprinkled some finely ground sea salt, and they were delicious!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mini Beef and Sage Sliders with Gorgonzola

Once again I headed to the garden and snipped some fresh herbs for supper. This time it was sage. The plant has a lovely earthy sweet scent. Sometimes I reach down and stir the leaves as I walk by, just to enjoy it.
So besides using it for Thanksgiving stuffing, what else is sage good for? This soup recipe is one of my favorites, and now these burgers can be added to the herb recipe collection:
Mini Beef and Sage Sliders with Gorgonzola
Rachael Ray
From Every Day with Rachael Ray
October 2006
12 mini dinner rolls, split
1 garlic clove, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil for liberal drizzling
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced
3/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (I just bought a small container of blue cheese crumbles)
1. Preheat broiler to high. Place the rolls on a broiler pan and toast until golden. Rub with the garlic and drizzle with EVOO.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the beef with the Worcestershire sauce, sage, shallot and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 equal pieces and form 3 sliders from each piece, 12 mini sliders total.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of EVOO. Cook the sliders for 3 minutes on the first side and 1 to 2 minutes on the other side for medium.
4. Top each bun bottom with some spinach, a slider and a few cheese crumbles. Place under the broiler to melt the cheese a bit, about 30 seconds, then set the bun tops in place.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making Pickles

When we were planning the raised beds and this year's veggie garden, Greg made a point of asking for cucumbers to make pickles. I made sure we were both on the same page with that - if he wanted pickles, he'd be making them. Last night was his first canning lesson as we worked together and made our first batch of dill pickles. The cucumbers and dill came from our garden. Greg used the Pampered Chef mandoline to make some wavy hamburger slices, and I cut some short spears. These are half-pint jars, because I don't like huge jars in the frig, and I think they'll work great for getting eaten before the contents gets old. I will pick up some larger jars, though, so we can have some longer spears. We won't be able to taste them for a few weeks, as they need time to develop their flavor. I'll definitely post a review when we're able to sample them!

This recipe came from Allrecipes.com. We did not do the hot water bath, but if you read the feedback, you find that the original recipe did not include those directions. Also, the original recipe was for 64 servings - I used the recalculation function on the web site and pared that down to 12 servings. For the eight half-pint jars we put up, we had to make two batches of brine, then ended up with about half of the second batch leftover. I'll readjust the servings depending on the quantity of cucumbers each time we make this recipe.

Dill Pickles
Servings: 12
"This recipe for Kosher style dills was given to me 25 years ago by a farmers wife who grew cucumbers and it has never let me down. The two things I have found critical to crisp dill pickles are soaking the cukes in ice water for at least 2 hours and ensuring the brine is at a full boil when poured over the dills."
1-1/2 pounds 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
3/4 cup white vinegar
2-1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1-1/2 sprigs fresh dill weed
1-1/2 heads fresh dill weed
You have scaled this recipe's ingredients to yield a new amount (12). The directions below still refer to the original recipe yield (64).
1. Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as required.
Sterilize 8 (1 quart ) canning jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.
3. In each jar, place 2 half-cloves of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and 1 sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue.
4. Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 15 minutes.
5. Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Using up the Herbs

The few herbs that are planted in the garden and in the pots on the porch, are thriving in the summer heat. Yesterday I picked quite a lot of basil, and this morning I grabbed some thyme and rosemary. Then I went web-surfing for herb bread recipes.
This is the first of the three recipes I saved to try. I made it in the bread machine, and did have to add several spoonsful of flour during the second kneading cycle.
It got rave reviews from Jessica and an enthusiastic nod from Greg. :o)
I'm thinking it will make for a delicious sandwich for my lunch tomorrow.
Herb Bread
1 cup warm water
1 beaten egg
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried rosemary, or use 2 tablespoons fresh, crumbled
(I used all fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme, and basil)
1 tsp each dried oregano and basil (or 1 tbsp each fresh)
3 c flour
2 tsp bread machine yeast
Place in machine according to machine instructions (or if you make bread by hand, you already know what to do). A few minutes into kneading, check that the dough is the consistency that you want, add any flour or extra water that you need (I usually find I need a little bit of flour).
Bake on large loaf, light crust. This herb combination smells heavenly, and goes great with chicken or pasta or on picnics. You can use any combination of herbs you like, and adjust it to complement the meal you are serving if you like.
Another favorite combination for us is dill and onion bread. Just omit the herbs in the recipe above and add 1/4 c finely chopped onion and 1 tbsp dried dill leaf (or three tbsp fresh).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mini Man Burgers

Sliders have become a popular appetizer on restaurant menus, so I recently searched for a recipe to make them at home. I came up with a couple versions of beef sliders, and have made this one twice for supper. Last night we had them with baked beans and corn on the cob - a perfect summer meal. I doubled the recipe so we'd have leftovers for the freezer. I'll pop each onto a bun (without mayo) and put two in each sandwich Ziplock, then all of the sandwich bags into a freezer bag. These will microwave easily for Greg's lunch.

Mini Man Burgers

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2003


1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound ground chuck

8 (3-inch) buns or rolls, split in half

2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Preheat a griddle to 350 degrees F. (I used our cast iron grill pan)

Combine the onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Line a jellyroll or sheet pan with parchment paper, and place the ground chuck in the middle of the pan. Cover the meat with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Roll meat with a rolling pin until it covers the surface of the pan; it should be very thin.

Remove the plastic wrap, and sprinkle the meat with the seasoning mixture. Fold the meat in half, from side to side, using the parchment paper.

Use a pizza wheel to cut the meat into 8 even squares.

Wrap the buns in foil and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the burgers on the griddle and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Remove the buns from the oven. Spread a small amount of mayonnaise on each bun and top with the burger and any other condiments, as desired.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Reaping the Garden Bounty

A few days ago Leslie gave me some red potatoes and some fresh green beans from her huge garden. I decided to make potato salad for supper yesterday, but was out of dill pickles for the recipe my mom taught me to make, so I searched for a recipe that used what I had in the cupboards and frig. I found one that used the green beans as well and we all really liked it. (Sorry, no photo - we ate it before I remembered to snap one.)
The recipe came from about.com - I just googled "potato salad recipe". My comments are in red.

Warm Green Bean and Potato Salad
4 cups sliced potatoes
2 cups fresh trimmed green beans, cut in 1/2-inch lengths
4 to 6 slices bacon [I was out of bacon, so just skipped this - it was still delicious]
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup vinegar (wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar are good) [I used red wine vinegar]
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
dash garlic powder
Preparation: Peel potatoes, halve then slice in 1/4-inch thickness. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cover and boil for 5 minutes; add green beans and more water to cover, if necessary. Boil for about 10 more minutes.
Fry bacon and drain; set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon of drippings.
In a small bowl, whisk olive oil and bacon drippings slowly into the vinegar; add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour over vegetables.
Crumble bacon over and toss gently.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve warm or room temperature. [I made this a couple of hours before we had supper, and just covered the bowl and let it sit on the counter until we ate.]
Serves 4 to 6.