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Wednesday
Jul182012

Pickled Cherries - its that time again

Tree of life

It's that time again - the freezer needs to be emptied of all the fruit preserved from the year that has passed.  Smoothies are being consumed at great speed and I really will get around to making a few pies this week. Unlike other years, I did not succumb to the 40 lb box of sour cherries but will only take four lbs from someone's huge shipment.

 

More of this nonsense #pickledcherries @sfn8tiv

A few years ago, I pickled some plums. I loved them. Sweet and tart and perfect with a ham or pork dish, they were also so pretty in a relish tray along with dilled beans and those exotics that come out with Aunt Maude's silver service.

Pickled fruit should not be a white tablecloth and silver candlesticks kind of a condiment that come out only for special occasions. They should appear at impromptu picnics with Mexican blankets and melmac plates. 

The pickled cherries are easy and quick to make. The pickling process is trivially easy. Because they are not processed in a hot water bath, they will need to be refrigerated for storage. I haven't seen a good recipe for hot water processing them, probably because they are so delicate to begin with and the heat might cause them to lose their shape. 

 Finished product #pickledcherries #picklegram @sfn8tiv

Quick Pickled Sour Cherries (adapted from David Lebovitz and others)
Makes one pt jar and one 8 oz jar, or three eight oz jar. (You do the math for the rest of the combinations)

Note: Left over picking brine/syrup should be combined with cherry juice, and used for a nice lively shrub - a fruit drinking vinegar hack that I like to dilute with club soda.  Try it and tell me what you think.

1 lb pitted sour cherries, I used frozen (reserve juice if frozen)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar (I used organic, unprocessed)
2/3 cup water
3 bay leaves
20 whole peppercorns
10 whole allspice

Prepare jar or jars - I use 8 oz canning jars by washing well with soap and water and hold in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes or longer to sterilize.  Place vinegar, water, sugar in a non-reactive pot and bring mixture to a boil.  Remove from heat and add spices and bay leaves. 

Pack cherries into jar or jars, pour liquid into jars, add one bay leaf to each jar. Be sure to leave 1/2" headspace at the top of the jar.  Seal each jar with a clean and sterlized lid and ring. Place in fridge to cure.  The pickling process should be completed in a week and should hold for a year in fridge. Open jars should also be refrigerated.

Use leftover brine to make a nice drinking vinegar (see note above).

Serve with ham, cheeses, a crusty baguette, a nice dry white and a side of ants.

Sunday
Jul152012

Four alliums and a zucchini frittata - kuku kadu 

 

In front of

Our squash are starting to go gang busters.  We have planted a bunch of different varieties this year and I am excited to try them all out.  We have tried to pick varieties that have smaller compact forms that should hopefully be easier to pick. How I wish squash leaves were transparent, so I wouldn't miss the one that got away.  You know that one.

DSC_1886

There are an infinite number of ways to use summer squash. I am a big fan of tossing julienned squash with lemon, olive oil and herbs and calling it salad.  I love a good chocolate and zucchini cake and some traditionalists actually eat it steamed with a bit of butter.  Suffice it to say, by August 15th, we'll have found a few new recipes to file under "summer squash glut".

One recipe that I am sure we'll try is zucchini frittata.  I do love a good frittata - farm eggs, sautéd veggies and just the right amount of cheese to hold it all together. Frittatas are great for brunch and cold. They work well in the summer when you can't think of what to cook, easy peasy on the stove top or in the oven.

Persians are master frittata makers, but we call them kukus. My favorites are the sabzi kuku and the potato kuku.  The zucchini kuku is a new one for me. I figured I would try it with some of the squash we had laying about.  The original recipe called for a lot of butter and onions, one thing I was trying to avoid and the other I just didn't have on hand.  I made a few changes to the recipes I had researched and I think I came up with a pretty good rendition.

I ended up using four different kinds of alliums in my recipe. In part because I had one onion in the house, but plenty of shallots, garlic and chives on hand and was not up for a grocery store encounter.  If I had leeks, I would have used them too.  The goal of this recipe is to cook the onions and zucchini together until they are a lovely melty mess.  Then the mixture is mashed up using a fork or potato masher, cooked a bit longer to draw out the liquid, cooled and mixed with egg and seasonings before baking.  I really encourage you to not skip the second cooking or you will have a soggy kuku, which is not very appealing. 

The resulting kuku should be browned along the edges, have a little lift from the leavening and taste of lovely mixture of squash and alliums with a hint of herbs you might want to throw in.  It will be great hot out of the oven or served at room temperature with a salad and a nice loaf of bread. 

photo.JPG

Zucchini Frittata - Kuku Kadu 
Makes one 9" pie plate kuku that serves 6 as a side dish

Note: I use the term summer squash and zucchini interchangeably, as in my opinion, they are pretty much the same thing in terms of use in the kitchen.

1 lb summer squash, washed, sliced thinly
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3-4 eggs (depending on the size)
2 large shallots, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 TB butter
2 T flour, I used rice flour
1 T fresh chives, minced
1 T fresh mint, chopped
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter pie plate.  Place 4 T of butter in frying pan, add onions, shallots, garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add squash to mixture and continue to sauté until soft. This should take about 15 minutes under medium to high heat.  When softened, remove from heat and use potato masher or fork to mash mixture. It should resemble guacamole.  It should be pretty wet at this point.  Return to medium heat for 5 minutes to evaporate off some of the liquid. Remove from heat again, let cool and mix in flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and mint. Let cool.

In a separate bowl, whip eggs until well mixed.  Add zucchini mixture to egg mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pie place.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, place dollops of remaining butter onto top of  kuku.  Cook for another 15 minutes, until browned and knife placed in middle comes clean.

Remove from oven, let cool and slice into wedges to serve.

 

Thursday
Jul122012

Universal cooling - Cucumber Yogurt Dip 

photo.JPG

 It is still warm in Seattle. The last few days have made all the grumbling about Junuary worth it. The garden is flourishing along with its weeds.  Dahlias are finally blooming and I even spied a red tomato.  We still have a long way to go if we plan on feeding ourselves from our garden bounty. If we planned on living on a lettuce, sorrel, raspberry diet, we would be golden.

Soon we'll have summer squash coming out of our ears and probably left on your front stoop. I wish I could say the same out some of the other trailing viney things I like to grow. I love cucumbers and I am in awe of anyone who can grow them successfully. Mine are always bitter and tough if I even get any to grow. I am grateful that our markets are full of them in July and August.

Iranians love cucumbers and often eat them like fruit. The Iranian cucumbers are picked fairly small, have a thin skin and are not bitter like some of the other commercially grown varieties. They are really eating out of hand cucumbers, with salt and a little pepper. I love them in salads.

Iranians are also nuts for salads.  Who can blame them in the heat of the Iranian/California summer - a quick salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers tossed with some lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper is pretty refreshing and pairs with many different protein sources.

I am a big fan of the Persian side salad - Mosteh-khiar (yoghurt and cucumber) which I have seen served as a dip with bread, a salad and in some homes, thinned as a soup.  It is similar to the tzakiki served by the Greeks or Raita served in Indian restaurants.  Makes sense doesn't it? Same lovely hot and sunny climate, well seasoned food and decent flat breads and a mild cucumber sauce as a foil.

It is also super simple to make and tastes even better the following day.

Mosteh-Khiar- Cucumber and Yogurt dip for a warm day

Note: My mom used to make this with Mountain High Yogurt, and only Mountain High. She's now making it with Sadaf yogurt, but I like conventional Greek yogurt, because I love the thickness. I love this with or without garlic. TH is not a garlic fan, so I sometimes leave it out. No one seems to mind. If you can't find Persian cucumbers, use pickling cucumbers, they seem to work. If those aren't available, use the English cucumber, but remember to deseed them.

Serves 12 as a hors d'oeuvres/dip
Six as a side salad
Eight for soup

1 32 oz. container plain greek or thick style yogurt (2% is great, but use what you have on hand)
1 lb Persian or Armenian cucumbers, thin skinned small cucumbers, peeled and chopped finely (I find my cucumbers at Trader Joes), but your greenmarket or farmer's market might have them
2 t dried dill or 2 T fresh dill, chopped
1 T chopped garlic chives or 1/2 clove garlic chopped fine
1 t dried mint or 1 T fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup currants (optional)

In a large bowl, mix yogurt, cucumbers, herbs and walnuts and currants and stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you plan to serve as a soup, thin with water or buttermilk to a consistency you desire.  Refrigerate until time to serve. Garnish with leftover mint.

For a dip, serve with pita triangles and crudite.

Monday
Jul092012

Wayward Fruit and Lost Buttermilk - Buttermilk Fruit Smoothies

photo.JPG 

Its all in the pink.

They say summer doesn't start in Seattle until July 5th.  This year it started the day before and we were blessed with a marvelous 4th of July to spend in the company of friends and family and to watch the fireworks from near or far.  The weather is supposed to stay warm and sunny for the foreseeable future. For this my tomatoes and raspberries are grateful.

In praise of soft fruits of the drupe etc.

In praise of  the soft fruits.

This also means that the berries are starting to ripen at a pace that makes it hard to keep up.  I will admit that it is hard to not drive by the berry stands in Anacortes and not stop for Skagit Sun Hoods or Sakuma Farms Shuksans.  I have many raspberry plants bearing fruit from now until September.  Our marionberries and blueberries are starting to color up too.TH and I will make our annual pilgrimage to the blueberry farm sometime soon.  It also means finishing up the berries in the freezer that we vowed that we would get through by February because we would eat them every day. We made a good dent in the berries this year, but I could make 16 pies this week and we would still have berries to eat. The dent might be more like a ding. Now, it is the race to the end of the fruit and smoothies are the vehicle of choice.

 

milkshakes made with buttermilk

The real deal - Superior Dairy Products  strawberry and chocolate shakes

In 2008, TH and I attended the Vernacular Architecture Forum Meeting in Fresno, California. The meeting was awesome. We toured Fresno and the Central Valley farms saw worker's housing, ethnic neighborhoods and ate some amazing food. That is what is so amazing about the VAF meetings - they don't just focus on the buildings, but on the social and cultural factors that shaped the communities and landscapes of settlement.  One place we visited, Hanford, California had the requisite things in a settled agricultural center - mills, town common, courthouse, commercial district and a great little ice cream shop and diner called Superior Dairy Products that good VAFers flocked to after touring the town.   There TH and I had shakes made with buttermilk instead of milk.  The tangy and thick buttermilk added a dimension to the shake that I can't really describe, but it worked.  Guess what? It works in a smoothie as well.  At Superior, you can have them add ground walnuts to your shake.  While I did not partake on that trip, I am now adding ground almonds and they are delicious.  This smoothie is the best thing to do with the lingering 3/4 quart of buttermilk leftover from your famous pancake batter.

Buttermilk Smoothie - where wayward fruit and lost buttermilk meet

Makes 1 12 oz smoothie (can be doubled)
We use a old stick blender, but if you have a nice vitamix/waring/smoothie maker, by all means use it.

1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen fruit (I use mixture of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
8 oz of lowfat buttermilk
1 T almond meal or ground walnuts (optional)
1 T ground flax seed (optional)
1 T maple syrup (optional, but good if you want things a little more sweet than tangy)
1/2 t vanilla (optional)

Place fruit, buttermilk and any or all of the above ingredients in a 1 pt wide mouth mason jar or your blending vessel of choice.  If you like things icy, then start your blender/hand blender/vitamix and blend until smooth. If you like things a little less refreshing,  let the mixture sit for a bit to soften up. Go check your email and walk you dog. Then return to your smoothie making and blend until smooth.


Drink up.

Friday
Jul062012

Reaping the bounty of pie cherries - making homemade maraschino cherries 

 

Life is a bowl of cherries - pits and all.  Be thankful for what you have.  #truth #thegarden #blessing #stonefruitsofinstagram #cherrygram

I knew TH was the girl for me when I opened up her kitchen drawer and found a well worn cherry pitter. Over the years we have had several cherry trees grow, some die, but most bear amazing fruit. One of the trees that was labeled dwarf at the nursery is now 20 feet tall and we can only get a few of the low hanging branches.  The rest go to the care and feeding of the crows.

Our pie cherry tree is finally bearing fruit. It is still small, but this year was festooned with beautiful little pie cherries, the ones that really do look like the color of Jolly Rancher candies.  TH netted the tree to keep the sparrows off the ripening fruit and last night, I picked all the fruit - one precious pint.

Iranians love cherries in rice dishes and refreshing sharbats (fizzy water drinks flavored with fruit syrups).  However, my mother argues that the pie cherries here are not the right ones.  Iranians love Morello cherries and those are not seen in residential nurseries as much as the more commonly grown Montmorency.  

When I was growing up, my parents would fill up the car with blankets, a hot pot of tea, some cheese, bread, herbs and cold meatballs and drive North to Mount Baker, Washington where they had finally located the correct type of cherry.  The owner of the orchard graciously allowed my parents and their friends to picnic on the grounds and go out and pick pounds and pounds of Morello cherries.  They would return to home laughing and joking about their day. They would later doled out their cherries to friends who weren't able to join them. The moms would  start the process of making jam and syrups for the following years dishes.

As a teenager, I always avoided going with my parents.  It was too boring, or I used the excuse of the Monday test.  Today I wish I had gone with them. The orchards have most likely been redeveloped into a strip mall, however the memories remain.

Last year I split a bottle of Luxardo liqueur with my friend Paola, to make maraschino cherries. I didn't get around to it, so I used this tiny stash to try the recipe.  I wanted to keep the stem intact, so I had to figure out a way to pit the cherry and keep the stem.  I figured it out, while they are not pretty, I think they will be tasty.

 

LuxardoBoozing. It. Up. @clarkbar @goodappetite #preservelocal

            The real deal.                                                                    Maceration Nation.

 

The recipe is simple, step by step I used Melissa Clark's method, but I did sterilize my jars and lids.  While these will remain refrigerated, its good sanitary practice.

Canned. Stuff.

                                                                 The final product.

 

Good Appetite's Maraschino Cherries, from the NYT Food Section, July 2007

1 cup Luxardo liqueur
1 pt fresh pie cherries (Morello if you can get them), pitted and if you are a rock star, leave the stem intact
2 or 3 8 oz mason jars
2 or 3 new lids and rings

Wash lids and rings and jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and place in preheated 250 degree oven for 15 minutes to sterlize.  They can be held at temperature for longer if necessary.

Place liqueur in stainless steel or non-reactive pan and bring to a simmer. Add cherries and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Pour into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, place lid on jar, screw on ring and place in fridge to macerate.Leave for at least two days before tasting.

Should make 2 to 3 8 oz jars to keep or give away.

I'm going to try mine with some chocolate ice cream and whipped cream and with a Manhattan on the side.