Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekend (Pickle) Edition

I started out the weekend by making raspberry ginger tea cakes, based on this recipe from Design*Sponge. I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made these, and it was delicious with apricots and almond flour, however this time I didn't have either ingredient, so I improvised. I used a cup of regular flour and added powdered ginger (instead of lemon zest) to flavor the batter. I substituted several still frozen raspberries as the fruit. I also made them a bit smaller, using muffin tins instead of small tart pans. The larger size was a bit more cake than I wanted with afternoon tea the last time. I have a winter version in mind using orange zest and dollops of marmalade. Yum. Might have to go eat the last one while I write the rest of this.

Saturday was spent gathering supplies for our first canning project of the year-- bread and butter pickles, and taking a scenic drive south through the farms that stretch down the Rio Grande through Isleta, Peralta, Tome, and Belen. Very verdant, but I didn't take any photos, so I can not share.

On Sunday I stopped by to see the extensive home renovation being done by two of my friends from architecture school. They bought a little shotgun house in Barelas a couple years ago, and it was promptly damaged by severe flooding during a series of torrential rain storms. It was in need of serious work before the flooding, but afterward they had to rip out all the wood floors, stabilize the adobe, and re-grade the yard in addition to building an addition and upgrading the old structure. I think the project is about a year and a half over-schedule now. They've accomplished a ton of work, but still have a lot to do. It made me feel a bit better about my own house to see others who have even bigger and more extensive projects on tap.

Then it was back to the house for pickles! My maternal grandmother always used to make bread & butter pickles, but neither my mom nor I had made them before. For those that don't know, bread & butter pickles are sliced sweet pickles that are generally put on sandwiches or served as a condiment with dinner. (My eastern-european-heritage-mid-western-raised grandma ALWAYS put pickles out on the table with dinner, no matter what was being served. Often more than one variety).

We spent a few days looking through grandma's old recipe cards and cookbooks for her exact recipe, but couldn't find one-- turns out they all looked fairly similar though, so we just choose the version in my mom's old Joy of Cooking. We had about three gallons of cucumbers, but failed to factor in enough red pepper or onions, so our version is a little shy of that. We also added a little hot pepper for a bit of spice. Initial tastings proved it to be a successful venture. The whole process was pretty easy, but totally time-consuming and hot! Once we find a pickling crock we'll probably try some dill pickles.

Pickling used up a lot of the cucumbers we had in the refrigerator, but they just keep coming, as evidenced by the seven I picked this morning. Also picked some beets, thai basil, arugula, and garlic chives and one tiny carrot, which was just to see how big they had actually grown. I plan to dice and roast the beets along with a sweet potato, and throw together a salad tonight using them plus the arugula and herbs. Might add a hard boiled egg too.

Meanwhile for lunch I made my favorite cucumber salad.

Favorite Cucumber Salad:
1 large or 2-3 small cucumbers
1-2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup finely sliced onion (red or vidalia are nice)
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Peel, seed and slice cucumbers. (If small enough I usually skip the peeling and seeding). Toss in the blue cheese, pine nuts, and herbs and toss with the vinegar and oil. (You can adjust the dressing as necessary depending on how big your cucumbers are). I've tried other vinegars but with the blue cheese the mild acidity of the rice wine is the best, its sweetness just works. Apple cider would be fine, but not as good. Balsamic was not good. Dill is also good in place of, or in addition to the mint, and dried works almost as well as fresh. I substituted a bunch of garlic chives for the onions in the picture above because I had used up all the onions for the pickles this weekend and haven't been back to the store to replenish.

And now a couple of random photos from the last week:

Corn from the garden. The ears are small, but the kernels are mature and we've had to pick en-masse because worms are eating them. We are adamantly organic, but really lazy about buying organic pest controls. Last year we swore we'd get the BT powder for our corn, but voila here it is mid-August and we still haven't bothered. For certain next year we will have it on hand.

And finally, the artichoke I picked last week that had gone too far towards blooming is now doing so in my mom's kitchen window. Soo beautiful.