Archive | March, 2007

Purple, Pickled, Peculiar

29 Mar

Let’s face it, it’s that time of year when the hearts of children, and yes, grown men and women the world over, sing with glee and hope.

It’s almost time to bite the ears off a chocolate rabbit.

Or snarf down multiple bags of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs.

And while I am human, and I do get a weird thrill out of chomping on dopey, oddly vacant bunnies in dark, milk and white chocolate varieties, the thing that really makes my heart go pitter-pat as we approach the Easter season is, of course, pickles.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Red Beet Eggs

And I know I am not alone.

I have been getting dozens of hits a day on this site in the past couple of weeks from people looking for a pickled red beet egg recipe.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Red Beet Eggs

So, pickled egg lovers of the world unite! Here is what you’re looking for:

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Hard Boiled Eggs And Red Beets (aka, pickled red beet eggs)

  • 1 can small, whole red beets
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 c. cold water
  • 3 or 4 whole cloves
  • small pieces of cinnamon
  • 1 doz. hard boiled eggs

Put all together in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
Peel eggs and add to liquid and beets.
Put all in a jar or container and cover.
Allow to pickle for about 2 days before using (aka,EATING!)

This recipe first appeared in the Pitcher Hill Church’s Ladies Cook Book.

It’s my grandmother’s recipe, or maybe even her mother’s, or her mother’s mother’s. We’re not 100% sure.  What I can guarantee is that these are delicious. Make them and eat them in good health.

But why just make purple pickled eggs? Why not make say, purple pickled cauliflower?

Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower & Purple Cabbage

Yeah, I thought it was a good idea when I came upon it in that Claudia Roden book, too.

They’re only just becoming really good. There’s a lot of sulfur and other unique chemical compounds for the brine to soften in family Brassicaceae (there’s that pesky Latin again).

Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower & Purple Cabbage

As you can see, they’re beautiful, almost as if rather than starting out as white cauliflower they began life as the purple stuff. But no, all that color has come from the purple cabbage.

Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower & Purple Cabbage

Ms Roden doesn’t say which part of the Middle East these are from, but unlike the Iranian pickles I made awhile back, these don’t have dill. They rely entirely on the raw ingredients and the brine to supply the punch, kind of like Middle Eastern sauerkraut.

Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower & Purple Cabbage

And how do they taste? Pretty darn good. I tasted them a few days ago and thought they were too salty, so I added a little more white vinegar. This seems to have done the trick. They’re mildly bitter with a mustardy undertone, lightly spicy, perfectly salty and deliciously sour.

Middle Eastern Pickled Cauliflower & Purple Cabbage

I can’t wait to eat them with some pate and crusty bread. But until Meat-Free March is over, tossing them with some bitter greens and cucumbers in a salad slicked lightly with the very best olive oil will have to, happily, do.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Purple Pickled Cauliflower.

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Prospects Rising

26 Mar

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I think spring has sprung.

Croci are blooming, Roger Clark has shed his ugly green jacket, and my mother tells me the vultures have returned Upstate (she swears this is a surer sign of spring than the return of the robins).

Prospect Park Croci

But what’s the surest sign of spring, chez Granny Cart? Yep, you guessed it, a very long walk.

12 miles to be exact, and with three distinct goals.

1. To show the boy Prospect Park at a time other than New Year’s Eve.

2. To have brunch at Prospect Heights’ jealousy-inducing Beast (I wish we had a spot like this in Bay Ridge).

3. To go to Fairway.

Prospect Park Entrance

We entered from the south through the horse tamers’ gate and headed around the lake.

Prospect Park Geese

Idyllic isn’t it? Until you notice that gigantic styrofoam cup.

Prospect Park Water Fowl

There was a little girl throwing bread crumbs to the birds. That swan was one foul fowl. I have a healthy fear of them, having been bitten (beaked?) by one in my teens.

Prospect Park Arch

There’s that guy that’s always getting in the way of my pictures.

Prospect Park Elm

This is the Camperdown Elm. Apparently it was planted in 1872, has a genetic mutation which causes it to grow outwards rather than upwards and is resistent to Dutch elm disease. That’s some tree!

Prospect Park Water Fall

Doesn’t this scene remind you of a Bob Ross painting?

Prospect Park Bridge

Retreating glaciers left little ponds and rills in the park which Olmstead and Vaux worked into their plans.

Prospect Park Meets The 'dacks

They also designed parts of the park to remind you of the Adirondacks. This nearly-hidden pagoda certainly did.

Prospect Park Trees Love Kites

It was a beautiful breezy day, perfect for flying kites… But the trees will always get one or two.

Prospect Park Snakes

One of the stranger design conceits are the large Grecian urns lining the park’s wall that feature intertwined snakes as handles. They’re rather realistic, and just a little bit creepy.

Grand Army Plaza

I love any park that sandwiches its north/south entrance with grand monuments featuring horses. This arch sits at Grand Army Plaza, home to a wonderful Greenmarket on Saturdays.

By this time we had about 6.5 miles under out belts, on empty stomachs. It was time to stop and refuel. Two beers, two coffees, two poached eggs, Beast’s incredible roasted potatoes, some polenta and a grilled vegetable sandwich later, we headed west.

Ah, The Majestic Gowanus

Someday, just maybe, the Gowanus canal will be beautiful. But for now? Not so much.

Smith St. Pussy Willows

I was absolutely gobsmacked to see this pussy willow tree growing in the middle of industrial Brooklyn, directly below the Smith-9th St. subway station.

Smith St. Pussy Willows

It’s such a misnomer to call this elevated platform a subway station, as it rises 91 feet into the air and is the highest one in the system. The views are incredible.

Carroll Gardens Church

Eventually, we finally made it to Fairway. Why was getting there so important? Because I have been suffering from a major squid joness. Why? I read somewhere that Atlantic squid are at their most tender and flavorful in the late-winter/early-spring.

Squid & Cockle pasta

I kept trying to get them at our local fish shop, but I was always late. And then I’d see them at the Greenmarket, but would always be doing something later that evening that made carrying around a pound or two of fresh cephalopods a little, well, inconvenient.

And so finally I decided that if I couldn’t get fresh, local squid at Fairway, I’d give up. Thankfully giving up was not a necessary option.

Squid & Cockle pasta

Fairway had them. They also had the most beautiful New Zeland cockles (yes, I know, totally not local, but they’re delicious, so ease up) and gorgeous, aromatic sweet limes.

Squid & Cockle pasta

In fact the squid were so fresh one still had dinner in its belly. Kinda gross, but I took it as a sign of quality.

Dinner could not have been easier. Chop some French shallots, some garlic, sautée, squeeze a lime, add some vermouth, pop in the cockles, toss in the squid and then serve over top of radicchio pasta.

Squid & Cockle pasta

I don’t know if these noodles are available everywhere. I got mine the same place I got the farro curlicues. There’s not much of a raddichio flavor, but the color is lovely and the texture is simply out of sight. They cooked up to an almost ridiculously perfect al dente.

Our only misstep was not having any bread around to sop up the sauce. It was sweet and luscious and perefctly briny.

Squid & Cockle pasta

Oh, well, next time.

Good thing I’ve still got some squid stowed away in the freezer.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Squid & Cockle Pasta with Alliums Three-Ways.

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Savory, With A Side Of Sunshine

22 Mar

Thank god for Latin.

Without this sad dead language, the only class in my entire life I gave up entirely, I’d be lost.

Wine Garden

I tried very hard to read Winnie the Pooh like an ancient Roman, but the look of perplexed amusement on my Professor’s face every morning when it was my turn to read to the class was too much. One morning he actually laughed out loud and asked, “Tell me again which language you spoke before this class?” I sheepishly replied, “German.” At which he nearly fell off his desk laughing and between gasps got out, “You have possibly the worst accent in Latin I’ve ever heard.”

I never went back to class after that. I decided that sleeping until 10am was far more important than being ridiculed by a tiny Englishman speaking a dead language every day for the rest of my freshman year. Sadly I hadn’t learned enough to become truly pretentious, but luckily I had learned enough to be good at parsing the etymology of taxonomic names.

Ah, The Majestic Gowanus

Why should anyone who cares about food care about etymology and taxonomy? Because it can free you to shop in stores where not only do you not know the language, but sometimes you don’t even know the alphabet!

Case in point? Those amazing dried porcini mushrooms.

All the packaging is in Polish, except for their scientific name Boletus edulis and the word borowik, which rang a bell as the mushroom used as the stuffing for uzska. Now, if I hadn’t had at least a little Latin in my life (well, that and wikipedia) I might have written both these recipes telling you to use borowik mushrooms, when I could have told you to use ceps, porcini,king boletes, steinpilz or even crow’s bread mushrooms. Confused yet?

So rather than bowing to one language over another, I can just tell you to look for the little italic script on the dried mushroom packaging that says B. edulis.

Want another example of useful culinary Latin? Fish. There are so many names for fish, and they can sometimes be confusing.

Case in point? Escolar, aka Snake Mackerel , aka Lepidocybium flavobrunneum, which is sometimes passed off as Chilean Sea Bass (another misnomer as they aren’t even bass), aka Patagonian Tooth Fish, aka Dissostichus eleginoides and I believe also Butterfish of which there are three kinds, Alaskan (Anoplopoma fimbria), American (Peprilus triacanthus) and Pacific (Peprilus simillimus), but may actually be a kind of Oil Fish (Ruvettus pretiosus).

See, just a little Latin and a friendly fishmonger can save you too from a night of unbearable, gut twisting intestinal pain.

Anyway, back to the mushrooms.

Opening the package of dried B. edulis is like walking through a thick, ancient, verdant forest after a day of rain. Musky, earthy, vegetal aromas waft through the air as they soak in the hot water. If umami has a smell, it is this.

The scent memory was locked in my brain the whole next day after making the porcini spätzle. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was a woman obsessed. And so somehow I convinced The Boy we needed to eat more mushrooms that very next night, and with pasta (not his favorite thing in the world), but I think the words farro (aka emer wheat, aka Triticum dicoccon) and risotto won him over.

What happened to the risotto, or absorption method of cooking pasta that had the foodblogosphere so in it’s thrall last year? Has everyone forgotten it? I certainly hope not because it’s a lovely and amazing way to impart flavor and a gorgeous texture to a simple pasta dinner.

Arugula, Raddichio, Blood Orange & Dill Salad

For this dish I soaked the mushrooms and then used the liquid as the cooking liquid for the farro curlicues to absorb. The result was intensely mushroomy in a seriously sensual way. The pasta was silky, yet firm and highly perfumed, enveloped in the shadowy, musky, almost feral, aromas of porcini and fresh sage.

I knew the dish was going to be intense so we planned a light, fresh sunny salad to go alongside it. Sharp and bitter greens with blood oranges, dill and a slightly sweet lingonberry/Scandinavian mustard vinaigrette with chopped hazelnuts (aka filberts aka Corylus avellana) on the side. The salad was a breath of sunshine in these depths of winter.

Lingonberry/Mustard Vinagrette

The filberts were also excellent on top of the pasta, lending a distinctive crunch to the dish.

Sometimes all it takes is a nut to tie it all together.

And yes, that is a Jack Daniels glass I use to mix my salad dressings. You mean, you don’t use one too?

Head below the jump for the recipes for Posh Porcini Pasta and Sunshine Salad.

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Wine In The Garden

20 Mar

Wine Garden

Somewhere over on the border of Gowanus and Boerum Hill (I can’t remember where exactly) lives a genius gardener who may not have figured out how to use all those wine corks she’s been saving, but rather how to use the wine bottles.

Gowanus Canal

Ah, the Gowanus Canal.  No seals or bodies this day.

Boerum Hill Church

I can’t remember the name of this Roman Catholic church in Boerum Hill on Hoyt between DeGraw and Sackett, but check out how many people that live behind it have swimming pools!

It’s keeping up with the Jonses gone wild.

Porcini + Pickles

19 Mar

Does anyone know if there’s an etymological root shared by porcini mushrooms and the word porcine?

If not, there should be, because they make a handy stand-in for bacon.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

On an impromptu trip into the City this weekend, I picked up the winter issue of Diner Journal, a Williamsburg food mag with writing from one of my favorite bloggers, the ever irreverent and potty mouthed Grocery Guy. It’s a really cool little slice of literary food writing, with winter recipes from two Billyburg institutions, Diner and Marlow & Sons.

I browsed through it on the train home, drooling over all the meaty goodness. Brisket cooked in Chimay. Pork braised in milk. Lamb shanks cooked in white wine. Sigh. Can Meat-Free March be over already?

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

The weird, ball bearing snow we got on Friday night makes it hard to believe winter’s almost over, but there are signs. Croci and daffodils are muscling their ways out of the frozen earth, the robins have returned.

The spring vegetables have not, so larder cooking remains the name of the game.

One of the few meat-free recipes in the Journal is for spätzle. There’s also one for Lentils cooked in red wine I have my eye on. I’m beginning to sense a theme here… These folk really like cooking with booze.

Their spätzle recipe differs a bit from the one I concocted from the memories of my aunt’s Easter-time dumplings in the ratio of egg to milk, so I decided to stick with the one I know. I made the dough a little thicker, like a stiff pancake batter, and used two spoons, as if I was making quenelles, to get the batter to drip into the boiling water. And then, in place of the bacon, I used some reconstituted porcini mushrooms that they sell for scandalously cheap at Polbridge.

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

But man and woman cannot live on spätzle alone (although you could try, it would probably be a pretty good life too, until the scurvy kicked in of course).

The boy suggested making a vegetarian version of chocroute. I blanched. I paled. I gasped. I scoffed. I felt a little dizzy. Chocroute is one of the meatiest of meaty meat dishes. I felt Frenchmen and women all over the globe turning over in their graves at the very idea of taking the sausages and smoked meats and bacon out of the dish.

But then we got home.

I headed for The Czechoslovak Cookbook first. I hoped to find a cabbage or sauerkraut recipe, but alas, nothing piqued my interest. I then turned to Polish Cookery, and boy oh boy, here we hit the jackpot (and I bet you were beginning to wonder where the pickles fit in).

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

Like many good old ethnic cookbooks, this one offers up a “mother” recipe which is followed by “chick” recipes, or variations on a theme if you prefer. To wit; Vegetable recipe 30, Sauerkraut in Wine (Kapusta Kiszona na Winie) is followed by Sauerkraut with Dried Mushrooms (no. 31 Kapusta Kiszona z Grzybami) and Sauerkraut with Pickles (no. 32 Kapusta Kiszona z Ogorkami) which is where I stopped in wonder and glee. Sauerkraut? Pickles? Can we get a hells yeah? I thought so.

The original recipe (no. 30) obviously calls for cooking the kraut in wine, while the pickle variation calls for cooking in stock, but I’m a lot like the Diner Journal folks. I enjoy cooking my food in wine. So, I did, but to get that hearty savoriness one would get from stock, I threw in the porcini soaking liquid. Genius, right? I love it when everything ties up neatly in a pretty culinary package.

Porcini Spatzle

And how was it all? Delicious! The spätzle had much more body than my original batch and were so garlicky and tasty with the silky, earthy mushrooms mixed in. One would think the kraut would be very sour and sharp, what with pickles and wine along for the ride, but it just isn’t so. The browned onions and mushroomy goodness impart a depth to the liquid that seems almost meaty and gets soaked up by the spätzle doubling their deliciousness.

This is hearty woodsman fare.

But if you ever do actually feed this to a lumberjack I’d suggest throwing in some smoked pork loin (actually, I’d suggest this preparation for anyone not having a Meat-Free March)!

Head below the jump for recipes for Sauerkraut With Pickles & Porcini Spätzle.

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