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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dilly Long Beans


Well, hi there! It's been a while! I have been cooking and creating, but haven't had the brain power to sit down and post. The good news is, I have several yummy things to share in the next week or so.

If you have never been to a farmers' market, I so urge you to go asap. Produce at the farmers' market is good, fresh, local and not expensive at all. There is a persistent myth that healthy food has to be expensive. I think this is true only if you are buying specialty items. Regular old fruit and veg are cheapity-cheap. Because of the large variety available at the farmers' market, I can try new things and if I need some help, the farmer is right there to give me pointers. They want me to enjoy their produce!

Here is a dramatic price comparison for you:

Lemon grass:
Bel Air - A tiny clam shell with one stalk cut into thirds, $2.99
Safeway - $6.99 per pound (it looked horrible too!)
SF Market in Little Saigon - 99 Cents per bunch, which has about 4 stalks
Sunday farmers' market - A big handful for a buck! (plus the nice lady shoved mint in my bag because I had to wait a minute)

I make iced tea with lemon grass and fresh ginger several times a week and I go through it pretty fast. There is no way I will pay $6.99 a pound for an inferior product! Herbs are one of the things that are always freshest and cheapest at the farmers' market. Most herbs grow like weeds, so I don't really know why they are so expensive at the grocery store. In fact, planting herbs is really the cheapest option. Many herbs are perennial and you will enjoy one plant for many years. I'm not much of a gardener, but I've always had good luck with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. (I couldn't resist!)



This week, the family that grows my lemon grass and other herbs, had beautiful long beans. I've been wanting to make dilly beans for a while and I thought it would be fun to experiment with long beans. I figured I could cut them to the length of any jar and they are usually pretty straight. I bought two bunches of green long beans. I don't know how much they weighed. They are bound at the top by a rubber band and the bound bunch was probably about 4 inches in diameter. As I was making my way out of the market, I noticed another family had purple long beans. They were gorgeous! They had to join my green long beans! Now, not only do I have dilly long beans, I have multi-colored dilly long beans! How cool is that!

I used the same brine I use for my little cucumber dills. Because the beans are smaller than the cucumber dills, the brine penetrates them more fully than the cucumber dills. In flavor, they remind me a bit of capers. I think it would be awesome to decorate the top of deviled eggs with purple beans. Stylish!

Dilly Long Beans
3 big bunches of long beans (I used 2 green and 1 purple)
6 cloves of garlic
6 sprigs of fresh dill weed
3 tsp. dill seed (1/2 tsp. per jar)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
6 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. whole black pepper corns (1/4 tsp. per jar)

Prepare 6 wide mouth pint jars, lids and rings. Prepare the boiling water bath.

Wash and trim the ends from the beans. Use a ruler to cut the beans so that they fill the jar with 1/2 inch head space. Peel the garlic and split each one in half, lengthwise. Set aside.

Bring the vinegar and water to a boil and stir in the salt to dissolve. Place the hot, sterilized jars on a towel and place one garlic clove, 1/2 tsp. dill seed and 1/4 tsp. black pepper corns. Carefully fill the jars with the beans, keeping them as straight as possible. Add the purple beans last, around the outside of the jar. Stuff the dill weed down one side, making sure everything is clear of the 1/2 inch head space. Pack the beans as tightly as possible, because they will shrink when processed. After the jars are filled, carefully pour the hot brine over the beans, again being careful of the 1/2 inch head space. Carefully wipe the rim of the jars and top with the prepared lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cure for two weeks before opening.

Makes 6 pints


Friday, September 7, 2012

Random Food Fridays - Rockin' the Pizza!


I'm having a hard time coming up with superlatives for pizza. I mean, it's pizza! Everybody likes pizza. I've seen vegans eat pizza with no cheese. I've seen gluten-free pizza with veggie crust. I've seen pork sausage swimming in a puddle of grease, using bell pepper rings as life preservers. I've seen it all. And, there is that famous quote that I once heard in a movie, "Sex is like pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good." (Tootled around google and could not find a reliable source for this quote. If you can remember, let me know.)


I can honestly say that I've eaten some of the best pizza of my life out of my own oven. Remember Butternut Squash Pizza? I'm looking forward to that specialty this Fall. One of the reasons homemade pizza rocks so hard is that you can make it just how you like it best. Your thickness of crust. Your favorite toppings. Your favorite cheeses. It's all you baby!


Here are some tips to make your homemade pizza especially good:

1. Make your own crust and use good extra virgin olive oil - My crust recipe is a basic one that won't fail you. If you like a thin crust, it is essential to let the dough rise at least once and then reform it and let it rest before stretching. The resting period should be about 10 minutes. More details in the recipe below.

2. Use a VERY HOT oven. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and let it remain at that heat for about 10 minutes before you start to bake. Get to know your oven. My oven has a convection setting, but I find that the traditional bake setting works best for pizza. In my oven, this means that the heat comes from the bottom rather than circulating with the convection fan. The bottom of the crust gets nice and crusty this way. I use well seasoned, thin cookie sheets to bake and place the pizza in the top third of my oven. If you are talented enough to use a peel and pizza stone, go for it!


3. Use very flavorful cheese - I like Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggi. This is a cheese blend that includes mozzarella, asiago, provolone and Parmesan. Using strong flavored cheeses makes a huge difference from using plain mozzarella. Now, if you want to use a good fresh moz, I approve. Fresh mozzarella is sweet and creamy and totally different from the mozzarella used by most pizza places. I'm just saying, your pizza will only be as good as your cheese. Use a cheese that you would eat by itself and one that will compliment your other toppings. Another tip - cheese is the glue for your pizza, so use some below and some above your toppings.

4. Use great toppings that are not too wet - I used fresh, sliced tomatoes on the pizza you see in these pictures. The tomatoes I used are an heirloom variety that are very meaty, plus a few sungold cherry tomatoes. If the tomatoes had been super juicy, I would have cut them in half and squeezed some of the juice and seeds out before slicing. I don't like my pizza to resemble a blow-up pool filled with grease or tomato juice.

5. Divide the dough so that each person get their own pizza - Mr. Dwayne's pizza was meat sauce (Mixmaster Bill's Special Sauce!) with lots of cooked sweet Italian sausage and lots of cheese. Mine had tomatoes, garlic, sliced green onions, fresh basil, some of that sweet Italian sausage and cheese. Vive la difference!

I know that pizza doesn't need a hard sell, but I hope that you will try making pizza with your family. It really is worth the effort.

Late Summer, Thursday Night Pizza, Susan Style

Basic Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Stir together the warm water, sugar and yeast. Set aside until bubbly. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl or in your Mixmaster with the dough hook attached. Add the water mixture and stir to combine. Knead until smooth and silky. (5 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand.) Add 2 tbsp. of the olive oil and work it into the dough. Pour the other 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl. Remove the dough and form it into a ball so that the outside is smooth. Roll it around in the bowl of olive oil making sure you end up with the smooth side up. Cover with a lid, plate or plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to raise in a warm place until doubled in size.

(Alternately, you can place this bowl in the fridge and use the dough another night. If it gets too big, just press the air out gently and reform the ball until you are ready to use it. Bring it out of the fridge to come closer to room temp about an hour before you plan to bake.)

Divide the dough and form each segment into a ball. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes before shaping the pizza.

This dough will make two medium pizzas with a medium crust. You can use the whole batch for a large pizza with a thicker dough. Each pizza will bake for about 15 minutes in the preheated 500 degree oven. You'll want to check sooner until you get to know your oven.

For my toppings:

2 handfuls flavorful cheese

1 handful cooked sweet Italian sausage

1 large tomato, cored and sliced thin
a few cherry tomatoes, cut in half
a handful of fresh basil leaves
a handful of sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Toss all together. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some of the moisture.

Oil your baking pan and gently stretch the dough to almost fill the pan. Sprinkle with some cooked sweet Italian sausage and a big handful of cheese. Remove the veggie mixture from the juices and place them on the pizza. Cover with another small handful of cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust is brown and crusty. Carefully remove to a wrack and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice.

This was so darn good!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Food Literacy Sandwich - Ginger Turkey and Wasabi Slaw Sliders



This sandwich was created to help the nonprofit California Food Literacy Center celebrate Food Literacy Month. The ingredients are good for you, good for the planet. www.californiafoodliteracy.org.


For the ginger turkey burgers...


Amber Stott is the genius behind the California Food Literacy Center and Food Literacy Month. She's also the creator of Awake at the Whisk, a great blog with recipes that are as fun as they are delicious and thoughtful. She's invited several bloggers and local restaurants to invent food literacy sandwiches. Here's the definition:


Food Literacy [fu: d lit-er-uh-see]
noun: Understanding the impact of your food choices on your health, the environment, and our community.



What’s a “Food Literacy Sandwich?”
You decide! It should take the definition of food literacy (above) into consideration. Is it healthy? Is it sustainable for our planet and community? You may already have a great sandwich on your blog that fits this description. Why not change the name and re-post it to let your readers know you care about the health of our children and our planet?




For my Food Literacy Sandwich, I've called on the rich cultural resources of the Sacramento area. This is a fusion of Vietnamese and Japanese flavors, all held together with one of my weaknesses - King's Hawaiian Rolls. I made these up today and got a big thumbs up from my tester, our friend Marcus (aka Big Sexy). Dude knows food.

The slaw is full of fresh flavors, with a little fruit for sweetness. I think the creamy, lively slaw is the perfect foil for the rich flavors in the ground turkey mini-burgers. I recommend making up the meat mixture and the slaw at least a couple of hours in advance, then cooking them to order. Juicy!

Ginger Turkey and Wasabi Slaw Sliders

For the mini-burgers:
1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. fresh grated lemon grass
1 green onion, sliced

Add all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. (I used a micro plane grater to grate the ginger and lemon grass.) Stir with a carving fork until mixed, but do not compact the meat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Wasabi Slaw:
1 tsp. wasabi powder plus 1 tsp. hot water
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 cup of pea shoots
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 avocado, peeled and diced
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/2 cup red radishes, grated
1/2 of a pear, grated
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt

Combine the wasabi powder and hot water and let stand to rehydrate. Add the rice vinegar to the avocado and toss to coat. Run a knife through the pea shoots to cut into lengths of about 1 inch. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, pea shoots, green onion, avocado, radishes, and pear. Mix the wasabi, sour cream, sugar and salt. Gently toss the slaw with the wasabi dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the sliders.

To assemble:
8 King's Sweet Hawaiian Rolls (I used Honey Wheat)
Cilantro

Heat a large cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet over a medium-high heat. Brush with oil or use a spray.  Use a 4 oz. ice cream scoop to measure out the sliders. Lightly press down to flatten. When the pan is hot, place the sliders in the pan and cover loosely. When the bottom has browned nicely, turn the sliders. Continue to cook until the internal temperature comes up to 165 degrees. Remove from heat.

Split the Hawaiian Rolls. Top the bottom half with one of the turkey burgers. Top the turkey burger with about 2 tablespoons slaw. Top the slow with cilantro, if desired. Top with the rest of the bun and EAT!

Makes 8 sliders.

Roll Call!

Grocery Store - ground turkey, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, wasabi powder, cabbage, pea shoots, ginger, sour cream, sugar, salt, King's Hawaiian Rolls

Farmer's Market - garlic, lemon grass, green onions, avocado, pear, radishes, cilantro