Friday, December 30, 2011

mango chutney

If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home. Patti is setting herself up on Millionaire Matchmaker! I knit a pair of socks! Museums and bourbon! Sharing DNA and a sense of humor! So many laughs. So many snacks.

Being a pauper, food gifts rule the day. This year, I canned chutney. My dad swears I could go into business, but he is still telling people that I am going to be a supreme court justice or replace Rachel Ray, so I sense some bias. Anyway, this recipe involves canning, which I guess is kind of scary because you could end up on the botch watch ( It was a long time before I started making jams and pickles for that reason, but you gotta figure that people have been doing this since the ancient times and so long as you follow the rules and don't eat out of weird bulging or molding jars, it works out. You can get a cheap canning kit that has a funnel and lifters, or just be bootleg and carefully use tongs... which works, mostly. There are plenty of online resources if you get hooked. Start here.

(from Simply Recipes)

4-5 cups of chopped mango (1/2 - 1 inch pieces). If you hadn't noticed, mangoes are freaking expensive. But a case from Costco isn't! And makes about double this recipe.
1 cup (5-6 percent acidity, double check!) apple cider vinegar
2 cups of sugar
a medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1  Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon (fresh grated) ginger or a few pieces of crystallized ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Salt and black pepper

In a thick-bottomed pot, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Don't breathe the fumes! Or breathe the fumes: refreshing! Phew. Throw in all the ingredients and let it simmer for an hour or an hour and a half until it is thick and gloppy. Like chutney! Miraculous! Seriously, when fruit turns jammy it is such happy magic.Making jam to the tunes of Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas? I could make this an annual thing.

OK, then sterilize your canning jars. You can get them at the grocery store or a hardware store. This recipe makes about 6 half pints, or three pints (math wizard!). So boil your jars and lids for a 10 minutes, or  keep them in a 250 degree oven while you are making the jam (twenty minutes should do it). Then dry them and get them ready on a non-stressful, flat surface.

When your jam is jammy, fill your jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (between your jam and the rim). "Bubble your jars," which means running a chopstick around the circumference of the jar so there are fewer bubbles to mess up the vacuum seal. Clean the rim of the jar really well so there is no crap that will mess up your seal. This is where having a funnel would probably be awesome. Oh well.

pee funnel camp

Is that too gross? Am I in total little-brother mode? MOVING ON! Boil a pot of water that is pretty big (enough to cover your jars plus a couple inches, a benefit of using the half pint). Place the lid on the jar and tighten the ring until "fingertip tight"-- I basically tighten it fiercely, then unwind a little. Air needs to be able to escape to make the vacuum, so gorilla grip is not your friend here.

Use tongs to place the jars in the water... I think you are supposed to use a rack so that the bottom of the glass jars is safer, but so far I haven't had a jar break, so. If you have some kind of steaming rack to rest the jars on top of, bravo. Process (boil) for 15 minutes, making sure there is always a couple inches of water over the tops of the jars. Then let the water cool for 5 minutes and take out the jars (using tongs, carefully). Let the jars rest for 24 hours undisturbed. If the seal goes down (pop!) you are set. If it makes that clicking noise (like the unscrewed top of a snapple that you use for dog training?!) stick that one in the fridge and eat it as you would normal, perishable chutney. Another test for the botulism-wary: unscrew the ring and pick up the jar from the lid-part with your fingertips. Should keep on the shelf for like six months and in the fridge for however long condiments last in the fridge (forever? a month?)

Have you totally bought into the hipster homemaking canning thing?  Is canning totally frivilous if you are buying the produce instead of growing it? Do you make your own condiments? Let me know. Also Teddy I hope this blog looks awesome on your new iPad. There is no rivalry like sibling rivalry and no sibling rivalry than Apple Product rivalry, AM I RIGHT FIRST-WORLD?! Anyway, happy holidays my friends. Chances are good that I am thinking of you and thinking warm and happy thoughts. Lots of love. Drop a line.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Talking Stalk: A GUEST POST!!!!

 OH MY GOODNESS it makes me so happy to announce a GUEST POST. My love for brussels sprouts nearly rivals my love of my friend Adam, so this is just perfect. I do love to roast them at impossibly high temperatures and then eat the leaves that fall off like potato chips-- but now I am totally going to make brussels sprout-ham bites. Adam, you are my hero.

An Exploration of a Snack Pariah: Brussel Sprouts

Today in true Make Your Own Pudding fashion, I decided to audaciously expound on a foodstuff that has been wrinkling noses for centuries: brussel sprouts.  And like my dear friend Lily, I am prone to make even the oddest item into an easy-to-snarf snack.

The wonderful qualities of brussel sprouts can elude even the most open-minded vegetable lover.  Not only a little tough and bitter, badly done ‘sprouts have tinny quality which is all their own.  However, cooked just right this signature flavor can blossom into a delectable backdrop for the well rounded meal. 

Usually I will just half or quarter the little cabbages, cover with olive oil, coarse salt, pepper and garlic and roast at 400F until they are brown and crispy on the edges and sweet smelling (and tasting! yum!).  This is the tasty side dish I had in mind when I saw the bold display of brussel sprouts still on the stalk at my local Trader Joes. 

I am sure I am not the first to be beguiled by the site of a whole brussel sprout stalks.  Exotic and robust (and 2+ feet long!), the stalks can seduce us into forgetting experiences of the banefully bitter bits that show up on dinner plates.  Trader Joes had a bushel of them begging me to undertake a food adventure, leave it them to make food fun.  So, I grabbed a stalk and headed home, not knowing what this bludgeon de brussels had in store for me.

Little did I know that these ‘sprouts would be meant to grace the crudite table at my family’s upcoming holiday party, not surreptitiously eaten at a private dinner affair.  My mother, the consummate hostess, has been obsessing about foody things to hold cheese, wrap in bacon or squirt in filo shells for weeks.  Considering the snackable size of brussel sprouts, I realized that these little monsters might fit the bill.  How, though, to cook them? 

Patting each other on the back for being true America’s Test Kitchen candidates, Mama Holt and I decided to cover our bases and steam them, roast them, and (my first thought) deep fry them.  First, to make them snack sized we cut the top quarter inch off laterally and then hollowed them out.  The result is a dimpled bite that holds together remarkably well.  You can cut the bottom so they stand upright, too.  With that tough core exposed, they cook a little through a little faster I imagine. 

To steam, just a quarter inch of water was needed in a sauce pan.  They cooked covered for about 7 minutes and were done.  The result was pretty good.  They had a little bite, but the core was soft and meaty and the leaves a fresh shell.  I figure they would be good with a bit of sweetness like hunk of honey ham inside, or a walnut, maple syrup goat cheese mixture.

The roasting took some more thought.  I poured quarter inch of oil in a glass pan and rolled the sprouts around in it, making sure some of the oil got into the dimple.  We heated the oven to 450F for 10 minutes.  I found that they roasted best when placed upside down.  That way the leafy part got crispy, sizzling in the oil, resulting in a sweet crisp crunch on top and a soft delicious center.  We tried it with a cream cheese spread that had chives and red peppers in it and it was quite good.  I could even imagine it with chicken salad, tapenade or roasted red pepper spread.   

“Deep” frying was the most fun, of course, and it cooked the fastest.  Deep in quotes because it only takes about an inch of oil to cover the sprouts.  We put a stray leaf in and waited for it to start bubbling to make sure the oil was hot before we put the brussels in.  After about five minutes, we grabbed them with tongs and placed on some paper towels.  The result was a golden brown blossom that was sweet, crunchy and wonderfully textured—not too heavy, but just  oily enough to qualify as a sometimes food.  These guys would be good with the above toppings, but I got a little carried away and grabbed a bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels we had sitting around from a holiday baking project.  I sprinkled them in one of the sprouts, watched as they melted slightly and popped it in my mouth—not bad at all.  Try it, I dare you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iceberg wedge salad

Have I mentioned lately how much I love blue cheese? A lot.
It's a newish thing, born out of my brother's love of buffalo chicken more than anything else. Increased buffalo chicken calzone consumption leads to increased blue cheese dressing consumption leads to picking over the cheese aisle for a D.O.P. gorgonzola at Whole Foods. Buffalo chicken is a gateway drug, you guys.

Anyway, a head of iceberg lettuce arrived in the CSA this week, which made this salad basically non-negotiable.

1) Fry up some bacon. And then crumble it up.
2) Make your dressing (serves one, so multiply if you are feeding the masses at your "Mad Men steakhouse dinner" themed dinner party. No? It is just you in your house but damn if these papers aren't going to get written without salads with bacon? Yep, that sounds about right.)
+A heaping spoonful or two of mayo or sour cream, or mayo AND sour cream
+A spoonful or two of buttermilk to thin (or milk with acid)
+A couple ounces of crumbled blue cheese (this is dinner, after all)
+Another teaspoon or so of wine vinegar, to taste
+Lots of salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix it up!

Now drizzle that over your wedge of lettuce with the bacon and some diced tomatoes, if you must have something with some kind of nutritious value. Oh man, it's good.