BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘pickles

Israeli Seder and D.I.Y. Salmon Gefilte Fish

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Seder salad plate: Israeli pickles, cucumber salad, Sephardic date charoset and celery for the karpas.

Salmon gefilte fish: I might still prefer Manischevitz.

We’ve had more seder invites than ever before here in Oregon. I guess Jews really come out of the woodwork in a small college town. Tonight we got to experience our first Israeli-style one. It was just our vibe, with only some cursory readings from the haggadah and more emphasis on the food. The presence of two toddlers throwing food around the table also added levity.

For some reason, I decided to make the gefilte fish. I had heard about a version made with salmon that is popular here in the Pacific Northwest. Wrestling the carp in the bathtub and boiling fish heads and bones into stock this is not. No, in fact my recipe simply called for grinding up fresh salmon with onions, carrots, parsley and eggs in the food processor. Then you bake the mixture in muffin cups until set. I got the recipe from the Cooking Jewish book I reviewed for The Sun. But I’m still curious about the method where you slowly boil the balls in homemade fish stock. That’s how Dan’s Bubbe, the self-proclaimed ace of gefilte fish, did it. Be sure to have your fish man grind the fish for you in advance, she stressed. I hope I get the chance to make it with her sometime.

Potato-matzo rolls.

Hummus the way it should be made.

There were unusual treats at this seder table, like potato-matzo meal rolls (anything resembling bread is such a luxury), a smooth, apple-less date paste for the charoset (makes sense since apples aren’t native to region) and plates of creamy whipped hummus. The secret to good Arab/Israeli hummus seems to be the quality of the tahini or tehina (ground sesame paste) which they bring from back home. Ours seems to be thicker and clumpier here. There was no secret ingredient but the hummus was seasoned with paprika, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and olive oil. And garnished with a drizzle of oil and the whole chickpeas. The Israelis were talking of some fabled cook’s top-secret hummus recipe, perhaps that of Abu Hassan’s in Jaffa? Food preferences unite Israelis and Arabs. If only breaking more bread together could somehow lead to peace. But politics was mostly off the table tonight. In fact, the group tonight was surprised that the Corvallis rabbi would hold forth on Israel/Mid-East politics during a Yom Kippur service. But it’s so second nature for us to mix up politics, religion, etc. here.

The best thing I made was the beet red horseradish, the sweet root vegetable softening the bitter herb’s bite. Dan and I screamed and cried from the fumes that filled the kitchen as I ground up that bitter root last night. Luckily, there’s plenty more in the freezer. The ruby condiment also nicely contrasted with the pasty fish logs.

For dessert, we had a lovely flourless chocolate torte. And I indulged in the Matzo Brittle crack recipe. If you like Fleur de Sel caramels, you’ll love this. Now just one more foodie-focused seder to go, Friday. Next year at our house? We need to step up to the plate.

Written by baltimoregon

March 30, 2010 at 12:43 am

Lovely Local Lamb and Figs

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Getting intimate with the rack.Getting intimate with the rack.

Dan’s uncle and aunt, our yenta (not in the busybody sense), came all the way from New York to visit, so I wanted to make a special meal.

Eggplant Parmesan? Fresh fish? But then I stumbled upon new Bon Appetit recipe for Lamb Chops with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Figs. That’s what I would make. But calling these lamb chops is a bit misleading. It’s rack of lamb cut into chops. Not the most recession-friendly recipe. But luckily I found an affordable local source of lamb just down the road. I even biked to their store to procure it. Nice rack. Had to crack a little joke as I took the 3-lbs. of meat (and mostly rib bones) from the freezer.

Blushing beauties: Kadota figs.

Blushing beauties: Kadota figs.

The hardest part of the recipe was timing the cooking of the lamb right and carving the chops. All you do is rub the rack with herbs and garlic, add some salt and pepper, brown, roast then roast the succulent halved Kadota figs in the lamb fat. I especially love such plain-looking green figs with their resplendent blush interiors. In Siddhartha, when Herman Hesse compares “her mouth to a fig split in two“: that’s a description that’s stayed with me. Don’t you just love Google Books?

To whet our appetites, we noshed on local cheeses (including the end of an addictive Rogue Creamery Rosemary Cheddar) with hazelnut sourdough bread from the farmers’ market. They sampled my pickles; the kosher dills were a hit, maybe even better than Ben’s? What better compliment could a girl get. The asparagus and okra pickles didn’t go over as well.

Rounding out the meal was Julia’s always reliable, amenable whole grain salad. I threw blanched green beans from our garden and roasted local Italian peppers into it. I recommend making it with Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (Israeli couscous, orzo, split garbanzo beans and red quinoa). I think that’s the Trader Joe’s item I most miss. I always pick some up when I’m in Portland. It’s supposed to be coming to Corvallis. Of course, they’ll probably discontinue carrying this product by then.

The meal.

The meal.

Julia's whole grains.

Julia's whole grains.

Written by baltimoregon

September 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

Pickle Problems?: Week 2

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Is that white scum mold?

Is that white scum mold?

Nurturing these pickles for a week, you become attached. I’ll be more than distraught if something goes wrong now. They still taste good but today was the first day I noticed the presence of white, filmy scum…mold I suppose. Perhaps my cover was too airtight? I replaced it with a pillow case to let the brew breathe a little better. Looks like my instincts were also right to add extra salt after the first day, according to Wild Fermentation master Sandorkraut. My recipe called for 1/2 cup salt to his 3/8 cup per 4 pounds cukes, so at least I already had that more saline brine he recommends. It’s nice to see that even experts botch their ferments when they first begin. It is a science but not an exact one. There’s plenty of room for trial and error here. Sandor also gave me the idea to try horseradish leaves in addition to the grape ones to keep the pickles crisp. Though I need to transplant my horseradish root into a big pot, else it take over the yard!

Next, I’ll try to make a kraut ferment with this beautiful young purple cabbage our friend Sang picked and gave to us today. We are dog-sitting sweet Mr. Baba (baba-sitting) while she and Antony head to Burning Man this week.

I’ll start small with kraut in a mason jar. Season it with caraway, celery seeds and/or fennel. I just hope the dog doesn’t get into it:) Any suggestions on kraut seasonings? Any advice on controlling mold while your veggies brine?

I'll grow cabbage next year.

I'll grow cabbage next year.

Sleepytime.

Sleepytime.

Written by baltimoregon

August 31, 2009 at 12:39 am

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Brined Pickles Day Five/Fermentation Fest

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They already almost look, smell and taste like real kosher dills.

They already almost look, smell and taste like real kosher dills.

Best ever cardamom-pu-erh fermented kombucha tea at the fermentation fest.

Best ever cardamom-pu-erh fermented kombucha tea at the fermentation fest.

What a difference five days makes. The stewing pickles have been transformed: an acidic broth has formed and infused the cucumbers’ once-firm flesh with a lactic tang that teams with life. Their color has change from vivid green to gray. Though delicious and aromatic with the essenses of garlic and dill, the brine has the off-putting look and clarity of dishwater.

At least all hope isn’t lost. I thought some of the top pickles were turning and going soft, so I lugged the full five-gallon jug down to the basement, which promises temperatures more consistent with the 75 degree threshold for problem fermentation to take place. But now they are safe and sound. My paranoia melted away as I sampled one, two, no five or six pickles this evening (bet you can’t each just one!). The whole basement smells like slightly-stinky pickles.

But it’s just a faint aroma compared to the scents wafting from the Ecotrust Building out towards the Thursday farmers market in Portland yesterday. We went up to check out the city’s inaugural fermentation fest, organized by Liz Crain, a fellow food writer there who is finishing up a Food Lovers’ Guide to Portland and specializes in wild-crafting and fermenting her own pickles, cider and dandelion wine. The main attraction: an appearance by the generous and gregarious Sandor Ellix Katz, or “Sandorkraut,” the guru of raw fermented foods and author of popular books on the topic.

The pungent smell of kimchi, krauts, kefirs and kombuchas perfumed the humid air in the Ecotrust gathering space. Most of it was delicious, though the tiny samples left you wanted for me. Hey, this was a free festival. But I had the rare experience of actually discovering a food I don’t like: natto. These gooey fermented Japanese-style soy beans stew in their own viscose sauce that has a (there’s no other way to put it) disenchanting semen-like consistency. I’ll just stick to my tempeh and tofu. But really anything to help me narrow my food choices down is a relief. Apparently, even in Japan, one-quarter of the population doesn’t care for the native food, so I’ve got good company. Sounds like another polarizing Asian delicacy: the spikey-on-the-outside, mushy-within, offensive-smelling durian fruit.

Not so into natto. But some folks swear by it.

Not so into natto. But some folks swear by it.

Coconut water kefir.

Coconut water kefir.

The drinks were what really stayed with me. Really delicate kombuchas, such as the one with spicy cardamom and aged pu-erh Chinese tea. Kefir, which normally describes fermented milk/yogurt drinks, as water-based drinks, such as the super-refreshing coconut water one at right. Hard ciders, which ran out before I got there. And unique professional-grade home brews fermented with special local ingredients, such as Douglas Fir tree needles and blackberries. The brewer gal is coming to OSU apparently in the acclaimed fermentation science program here. On our trip home, we schemed of having our own fermentation festival right here in Corvallis.

This brewer is coming to study fermentation science at OSU. What more does she need to learn?

This brewer is coming to study fermentation science at OSU. What more does she need to learn?

Written by baltimoregon

August 29, 2009 at 1:50 am

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Brined (Fermented) Dill Pickles: Day One

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Let the brining begin!

Let the brining begin!

What would a girl really need 20 lbs. of cucumbers for?

What would a girl really need 20 lbs. of cucumbers for?

I never thought I’d need 20 lbs. of cucumbers in one sitting. But when you’re brining your own batch, you look for economies of scale. I had a five-gallon food grade salsa bucket. And my recipe called for four pounds of pickling cukes per gallon of your container. So there.

Finding the bumpy, relatively seedless pickling cukes isn’t always easy. Luckily, I could custom-picked ones from Heavenly Harvest Farm just down the road. The farm’s owner and manager were in my master food preserver’s course.

Once you secure your cukes, preparing the bucket for brining is pretty easy. You slice all the blossom ends off the cucumbers, to remove an enzyme that softens them. You make a salt water (with a little vinegar) solution. You throw in heaps of flowering dill heads (or dried seeds), garlic cloves, dried hot red peppers, peppercorns, some pickling spice, whatever spices you like, really. You put a weighted plate in on top, to push down and ensure all the cukes are submerged in brine. Otherwise they could mold and rot. Then you allow the fermenting cukes to steep in a dark place with temperatures no greater than 75 degrees. I’ve got the bucket in our coat closet but will move it to the basement if it heats up again. And I’ll be checking the bucket almost daily, to skim any scum off the top and sample the cukes to taste their progress. After three to four weeks of brining, these girls should be fully fermented. Then I can either refrigerate them or hot water process them in jars to make them shelf stable. Oh, and to keep the cukes crisp, I rolled up a few fistfuls of grape leaves from the neighbors vine and horseradish leaves from the root I planted and stuffed them into the brine. Using chemicals like alum or lime to crisp the pickles kind of scares me.

Use grape and/or horseradish leaves to keep the cukes crisp.

Use grape and/or horseradish leaves to keep the cukes crisp.

Speaking of fermentation, I plan to attend Portland’s first-ever fermentation festival this Thursday. Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation and food preservation poster boy, will be speaking there. He is living with AIDS and eats lacto-fermented foods, in part, for their health benefits.

Written by baltimoregon

August 24, 2009 at 1:09 am

Housewarmings Make Your Kitchen Feel Small

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Over-flowing pile of canned goods collected for food bank.

Over-flowing pile of canned goods collected for food bank.

There’s nothing like a party to make your living quarters feel tight. And we thought our two-bedroom home was way too spacious for us. Our neighbors, Dan’s economics colleagues and other Corvallis folks we’ve befriended made merry with us for several hours this evening.

But with Oregon’s growing hunger crisis (third highest rate in the nation), all celebrations are tinged with sadness this time of year. We asked folks to bring donations we will deliver to the Linn-Benton Food Share. It was a simple gesture people really seemed to respond to. Our guests also came bearing gifts of Oregon pinot noirs. We will enjoy those over Thanksgiving!

We served those lamb meatballs I mentioned, chanterelle mushroom and delicata squash pizzas, pecan goat cheese balls, other cheeses and pickled grapes and prunes. Tangy, spicy brines really transform those fruits, which go nicely with a cheese plate. Read more about making the unusual pickles here. They were a cinch to make!

Pickled grapes and pickled prunes

Pickled grapes and pickled prunes

Written by baltimoregon

November 24, 2008 at 1:10 am

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