Monday, August 18, 2008

Kosher-style Dill Pickles

Not that you'd know it by looking at my RSS feed, but I've done a lot of canning this summer. I started with blueberry jam, moved on to cherry jelly, and followed that up with salsa. But my favorite -- by far -- has been dill pickles.

Crispy and tangy with a hint of garlic (and of course, plenty of dill), these are perfect with a hot burger or a cold sub. They blow the storebought kind out of the water (, brine?).

(adapted from a recipe by Sharon Howard)

Note: I didn't have eight, 1-quart jars, so I placed the extra cucumbers in a Tupperware container, covered everything with warm brine and added dill and garlic. After letting them marinate for two days in my refrigerator, they were ready to eat -- and delicious.

8 pounds pickling cucumbers, 4 to 5 inches long
4 cups white vinegar
12 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
24 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 sprigs fresh dill weed
8 heads fresh dill weed Or 1/3 tsp. dill seed per jar

Prepare water bath canner and eight, 1-quart jars and lids.

Wash cucumbers, slice into spears, 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.

In a large stainless steel pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.

In each jar, place 2 cloves of garlic, one head of dill or dill seeds, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar. Add one more garlic clove and a sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine, covering pickles completely while leaving 1/2-inch of head space. Seal jars, making sure to clean the jars' rims of any residue.

Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.5.Store pickles for a at least 3 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place. Note: the brine may turn the garlic a bluish or greenish color. This is completely normal and is safe to eat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sugar Plums Dancing in My Head, Ed. #7

Sometimes, I read things that make my head nearly explode. Things like this:

"It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk."
--Rush Limbaugh, on the motivations behind John Edward's extra-martial affair, during the August 12 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show.

But wait! There's more:

"We've been told that Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards. That's part of the puff pieces on them that we've seen. Ergo, if Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards, is it likely that she thinks she knows better than he does what his speeches ought to contain and what kind of things he ought to be doing strategy-wise in the campaign? If she is smarter than he is, could it have been her decision to keep going with the campaign? In other words, could it be that she doesn't shut up? Now, that's as far as I'm going to go."

But, sadly, Limbaugh went further:

"My theory that I just explained to you about why -- you know, what could have John Edwards' motivations been to have the affair with Rielle Hunter, given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him a lot about doing this, and he found somebody that did something with her mouth other than talk."

So according to Limbaugh:

1) Women who are smart automatically push their partners to do things they don't want to do

2) Women who are smart automatically nag their partners

3) Elizabeth Edwards (a smart woman) is responsible for her husband's behavior

4) Women talk incessantly

5) Smart women are asexual beings --OR-- smart women are incapable of satisfying partners sexually.

6) Men are not emotionally capable of handling relationships with smart women.

Really forward thinking from Limbaugh, huh? And he wonders why all the women he encounters seem to be "feminazis."

More info:

Friday, August 08, 2008

Chocolate Dipped Butter Cookies

For my mom's birthday (which is today) I offered to bake her anything she liked. Always a butter cookie lover, she requested:

A butter cookie that is partially dipped in chocolate. You know, like the old fashioned delicious cookies that bakeries used to make themselves before they bought them wholesale from large commercial bakeries made with butter flavoring.
Can you tell our family is into quality food?

The recipe for the cookies appears below; as for the chocolate, I melted and tempered Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, getting a refresher in the method from Cooking for Engineers. After tempering, I dipped each cookie halfway, ran a fork gently through the liquid chocolate to provide visual interest, and set the cookie on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set up.

I hope these cookies do her request -- and she herself -- justice. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Chocolate Dipped Butter Cookies (adapted)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a bit more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until mixture forms a dough.

Divide dough between 2 large sheets of parchment or wax paper and form each half into a 10- x 1 1/2-inch log, wrapping it in the paper, and sealing the wrapped logs in a zip top plastic bag. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days. (Or, dough may be frozen up to 2 months.)

Let dough soften slightly before cutting (or, if frozen, thaw). Preheat oven to 375-degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheet. VERY LIGHTLY sprinkle the tops of cookies with a bit of sea salt. To quote PJ Hamel, who used the technique on chocolate chip cookies, "We’re not talking pouring salt on your popcorn here. Just a minimalist’s sprinkle is what you’re after."

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before dipping in chocolate. Store cookies in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yields about 50 cookies.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pasta with Swiss Chard, Raisins & Almonds

On Monday, we received a good portion of Swiss chard in our farm share, which I don't have very much experience with. So I was happy to find this recipe on Epicurious, adding a bit of pasta to turn it into a main meal based on Epicurious user recommendations.

I very much like how healthy this is: Swiss chard, almonds, raisins, and EVOO are very, very nutritive things to eat (better yet, use whole wheat pasta). Unfortunately, the final result here was a bit bland; everything just needed more "oomph" -- but this may be due to my tinkering with the recipe.

Next time, I'll increase the amount of smoked paprika (which was wonderful) and thrown in a bit of cinnamon and maybe cardamom to boot.

Pasta with Swiss Chard, Raisins & Almonds

1 large, red onion, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
3 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 lbs Swiss chard
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds with skins
8 oz cooked, short cut pasta (such as fusili, penne, shells, farfalle, etc.), kept hot

After washing & drying the Swiss chard, remove the center ribs and slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Chop the leaves coarsely and set aside.

Cook onion and chopped chard ribs with 1/4 teaspoon salt in 3 tablespoons oil in a 5- or 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring until softened. Sprinkle with paprika and cook while stirring, 1 minute. Add the chopped chard leaves in batches, stirring frequently until wilted, then adding raisins and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until chard is tender, about 7 minutes. When finished, toss with pasta and adjust seasonings.

While chard leaves are cooking, start preparing the almonds. In a small heavy skillet over medium low heat, cook the nuts in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, stirring frequently until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle almonds over pasta and chard.

Serves 6.