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2014 1109 Pickled green cherry tomatoesWaste not, want not. Clean out the garden, fill the pantry. Here’s a great way to use green cherry tomatoes rescued from a killer frost. In cleaning out my garden for the season, I harvested baskets full of green cherry tomatoes and tomatillos, along with green bell peppers and jalapeños, and I pickled them. This is very quick to do and lasts a long time in the refrigerator. After a week or so, when cured, I chop them into salsa or slice them into quesadillas.

Pickled Tomatillos adapted from Linda Ziedrich, Joy of Pickling
1 lb husked tomatillos, halved if large
1 sweet mild pepper such as bell or Anaheim (I used bell), cut into 1-inch squares or strips
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced into rings
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 c white wine vinegar
1 c water
2 tsp pickling salt (or 1 tbsp kosher salt)
1-2 tsp sugar
½ tsp whole cumin seeds
Optional: small fresh hot pepper such as piquin
Prick the tomatillos with a trussing needle to help them absorb the pickling liquid. Pack the tomatillos, peppers, garlic and oregano in a clean quart jar.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan and pour the hot liquid over the vegetables. Insert a chopstick in the jar to release any air bubbles, and set aside to cool.
When cool, cover with a non-reactive cap and refrigerate for at least a week before eating the pickles. They will keep, refrigerated, for many months, getting mellower and softer as they age.

Variation: Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes. Substitute green cherry tomatoes for the tomatillos. Make sure to prick them in a few places to help them absorb the pickling liquid since their skin is tougher than that of tomatillos.

2014 1109 Canned pickled cauliflower, carrots and red peppersI couldn’t resist that big blowsy cauliflower at the farmer’s market. It made no sense to cart it home without a plan, since I was about to go on the road for the week. But there it was on the kitchen counter in all its glory, along with thick-walled red peppers from my garden and the season’s first carrots from our CSA. Giardiniera? That would be perfect if I didn’t already have a refrigerator full of all sorts of vegetables being pickled. So I decided to make a version of that pickled combination and can a few jars for the pantry.

2014 1109 Chopped cauliflower, carrots and red peppers

The recipe comes from the magazine Fine Cooking. While it uses a standard combination of vinegar, water and salt as a base, what I found interesting was the slightly Indian combination of toasted coriander, brown mustard and cumin seeds, ground turmeric and chunks of fresh ginger and hot red pepper. After curing for about a week, the pickled medley was tangy, slightly spicy and very flavorful. It will be great as an impromptu antipasto over the holidays or a sparky counterpart to rich meats or scalloped potatoes.

2014 1109 Pickling liquidPickled Cauliflower, Carrots and Red Peppers adapted from Fine Cooking

4 c cauliflower florets (under 1”)

2 c sliced carrots, cut on the diagonal a little under ½-inch thick (about 4 medium carrots)

1 c red pepper squares, ¾-inch pieces

1 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp brown mustard seed

½ tsp cumin seed

1 tsp black peppercorns

½ tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp Kosher salt or half that amount of pickling salt

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or 4 small fresh piquin peppers, one for each jar)

4 slices peeled fresh ginger, a little under ¼-inch thick (one for each jar)

½ small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced vertically

4 medium cloves garlic

2 c cider vinegar

1 c water

If you are canning the pickles, prepare 4 one-pint jars for water bath canning. Have all ingredients prepared and ready to go. Place equal amounts of cauliflower, carrots and red peppers in the hot jars.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, lightly toast the coriander, mustard and cumin seeds until aromatic, 1-2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables, making sure to distribute the ingredients evenly among the jars. Leave ½-inch of head space. Insert a chopstick into each jar to release any air bubbles and wipe the rims clean. Top with warm, sterilized two-part canning lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to the counter to sit undisturbed until cool. Set aside for at least a week to cure before eating, whether you’ve canned them or not (store in refrigerator if not canned).

Make 4 pints.

2014 1025 Corn puddingAlmost gone are the days of fresh corn on the cob. Our local corn farm keeps pumping out its succession crops that keep us fed from July to nearly November. When most farmers’ corn is old and tough, this farm is still producing young corn, worthy of eating just as is. But as the nights turn cold and frost threatens to harm the harvest, we find inventive ways of using fresh corn — in succotash with seasonal beans, and here in corn pudding served with a harvest of mixed peppers.

2014 1025 Piperade

The old saying, “What grows together, goes together,” typifies this time of year. The entire menu included corn pudding topped with sautéed peppers and onions, rosy yellow heirloom tomatoes with Thai basil, and green salad of just picked baby lettuce and arugula. You could add mild chicken sausage if you’re what my kids call a “meat-atarian.”


2014 1025 Mixed peppers

Piperade, the Basque version of pepper sauté, is simple. You sauté thinly sliced onion in olive oil, add thinly sliced peppers (I cleaned out my garden and used a variety) and cook them slowly until tender. Add chopped tomatoes and a little smoked paprika, and there you have it. I make a big batch on the weekend and use it in numerous ways throughout the week. It’s great with a poached egg for a quick meal.

Ancho Corn Pudding

4 ears corn

1 ancho chili, stem and majority of seeds removed

2 c milk

¼ tsp paprika

4 eggs

1 tbsp salt

Butter

 

Strip the kernels from the corn (stand a small bowl in a wide and deep bowl and place the stem end of the corn on the bowl, cutting vertically to allow the kernels to fall into the bowl versus scattering about).

Place a large wide saucepan over medium heat and press the ancho chili into the pan until lightly steaming, flipping it once.

Place the corn, milk and ancho chili in a food processor and whir to chop them finely. You probably need to do this in two batches, adding them to the pan as you go.

Add paprika and, over low heat, let the mixture come almost to a simmer. The milk should be lightly steaming. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes or longer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 6-cup baking dish with butter. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Lightly beat the eggs. If the milk and corn mixture is warm, add a little to the eggs to warm them and add to the corn mixture. If the milk and corn mixture is cold, add the beaten eggs straight away. Season with salt. (This seems like a lot of salt but it’s needed.)

Pour into the buttered baking dish and place it into a larger pan, adding hot water to come up the sides by one-third to one-half. Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The center will be a little loose, but will firm up as the pudding cools.

Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Pickled Peppers

2014 1016 Pickled peppers 2This was the year of the pepper. I experimented with varieties we might want to grow in bulk in the future and ended up with a Noah’s ark-worth of capsicums, a tenth of what our local grower claims to tend, but that’s still 50 varieties. (Check them out: Cross County Nurseries and http://www.chiliplants.com. Great but unobtrusive place, sweet people, awesome inventory.

2014 1014 Red peppers for picklingI chose my peppers based on what was available since I ordered very late and went to the farm to pick up, but I spread the selection among sweet-medium-hot, early-medium-late, short-medium-tall, eating raw, stuffed, or pickled, accompanying cuisines from all over the place. In other words, this was a wide and somewhat random sampling. Given our slightly shady yard-turned-garden, it was a crapshoot to say the least. I lucked out. This was a great year to grow peppers locally.

Two of the winners in the bunch I earmarked for pickling are Red Squash and Pilange, both picturesque and prolific. I’d be pleased just to have them as ornamentals. Instead of planting them in the garden next year, I might showcase them in pots with a ground cover of compatible herbs or flowers that keep the soil and roots cool.

2014 1015 IMG_5374 Pilange peppers

Red Squash, also called Red Mushroom, is a crumpled little number, like a scotch bonnet but not hot. The plant grows like a tree, with a central stalk and umbrella-like arching branches that dangle the peppers like ornaments. Same with Pilange, although its habit is an even taller, more slender stalk with branches that spread at least 3 feet across.

2014 1015 Red Squash Pepper

As for pickling, it’s pretty simple. Half water and half vinegar make the base, and salt, peppercorns and spices (or herbs) make the flavorings. Here I used whole coriander seed, black peppercorns, garlic cloves and a little sugar. Last year’s pickled peppers were a little bitter so I thought that sugar would offset the vinegar. I use a cold pack method, meaning that cleaned, raw and pricked peppers (slashing or pricking them let’s the liquid inside) are packed in a jar and hot pickling liquid is poured over them. They’re ready in a day and keep for months in the fridge 

If you use large peppers, cut them up. Mine were very small, under an inch and a half, so I left them whole.

Pickled Peppers adapted from Bon Appetit

1 qt peppers, washed and dried

1½ c distilled white vinegar

1½ c water

2 tbsp pickling or Kosher salt

2 tbsp white granulated sugar

2 tbsp whole peppercorns

2 tbsp whole coriander seed

Prick the peppers in three places with a skewer or small knife. Place them in a very clean, dry quart jar that has a plastic or glass lid.

In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil over high heat. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the hot liquid over the peppers and cap the jar. When cooled, refrigerate the pickled peppers.

2014 1004 Husk cherry jam with rosemaryJamming with Rosemary is not a hipster jazz gig. It’s just my way of taking advantage of the season. Of all the woody herbs in my garden, rosemary is the least likely to over-winter. Before it gets too cold, I like to give my plants a good haircut. When you prune a plant, it starts growing, so you will definitely kill it if you trim it close to frost time. With plenty of husk cherries falling to the ground ready to harvest, I decided to make one of my favorites: Husk Cherry Jam with Orange and Rosemary.

2014 1004 Husk cherriesHusk cherries, if you don’t know them, look like tiny paper lanterns and contain a small yellow sweet-tart berry inside. They’re also sometimes called ground cherries (since you harvest them after they’ve fallen off the plant) or cape gooseberries. I throw them into salad, pair them with tomatoes, cook them with their cousin tomatillos to make salsa, or turn them into delicious jam. When they’re cooked, they have a taste that reminds me of vanilla. Even holding back on sugar, they’re a little cloying so I tend to seek a counterpoint. Orange zest and rosemary do the trick.

I do exactly the same thing with fig preserves but use lemon zest instead of orange. Both of these jams are fantastic in the dead of winter, served with runny Brie, thinly sliced prosciutto or speck, and homemade rosemary crackers.

Husk Cherry Jam with Orange and Rosemary

1½ qts husk cherries, yielding 2½ c after husking

2/3 c water

Approximately 1 c sugar

1 tbsp grated orange zest

Small sprigs of rosemary

Make sure the husk cherries are free of dust and dirt. Place them in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until the fruit starts to collapse, and mash it lightly with the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and measure the fruit. Return the fruit to the pan and add sugar equal to half the measure. (I had 2 cups of fruit, so I added one cup of sugar.)

Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest and a sprig of rosemary, stirring to combine. Place a crumpled piece of parchment paper on top of the jam and set it aside for 2-3 hours or overnight (in which case it should be refrigerated). The purpose of this step is to build up the gelling capacity.

Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Start testing for gel. Mine reached gel stage in less than ten minutes. Remove the cooked sprig of rosemary. Pour into prepared jars. Submerge 3-4 individual rosemary leaves of in each jar of hot jam, making sure they are covered and not harboring air pockets.

Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat and remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.

Makes 4 four-ounce jars.

2014 1004 Chicken Chili with ChorizoI’m on a roll with corn and beans. As the corn stalks become sere and the air becomes September-crisp, we feel the urge to savor the last corn of the year while ramping up for our winter fare of dried beans. We transform the corn into salad, chowder, fritters, and now — chili. Instead of adding store-bought chili powder to a chili base, I have found it more fulfilling to use good quality Spanish chorizo sausage as an ingredient, along with freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds, and smoked and regular paprika. Fresh hot peppers grow seasonally with corn and provide a genuine spunk that the ground stuff can’t muster. Also, this is a great way to use excess cherry tomatoes, which retain their presence in the sauce. While this could be a year-round affair (with or without the corn), there’s something gratifying about making it from this week’s harvest.

I normally would wing a recipe like this, but I happened upon a version of chicken chili by Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my favorite chefs on the planet. I regularly read his column in The Guardian and have literally cooked my way through Jerusalem, a Cookbook, which he co-authored with his business partner Sami Tamimi. I added the corn to his stew. He was teaching a lesson on corn tamales and chicken stew was the base. I went for the stew but I think I should try the tamales while fresh cornhusks are still around.

This is a good make-ahead dish since it keeps well and improves in flavor after a day of rest.

Chicken Chili with Chorizo, Corn and Black Beans adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

I – 1¼ lb boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat and cut in half

½ tsp salt

1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1½ tsp whole cumin seed, toasted and crushed

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 ancho chili, cut in quarters

¼ lb Spanish chorizo, skinned and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 small red hot chili pepper, more or less to taste

1 c chicken stock

½ lb cherry tomatoes, halved, or 1 medium tomato, chopped

1½ tsp red wine vinegar

1 c cooked black beans

Salt

11 tsp grated orange zest

Cilantro leaves, torn

Optional: sour cream

Sprinkle salt on the chicken and set aside. Meanwhile assemble all the other ingredients

Sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, both types of paprika, ancho chili, chorizo and fresh pepper and sauté for 2 minutes, pressing the ancho chili into the bottom of the pan to soften.

Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until both sides color.

Add the chicken stock, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the tomatoes, vinegar and beans and simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened.

Season to taste with salt, and stir in the orange zest and cilantro before serving. Serve with sour cream if desired.

Serves 4-6

2014 0926 Corn and black bean saladAmerica’s Test Kitchen would be proud. I’ve been tinkering and puttering around with this idea for months, evaluating ingredients and proportions, adjusting ingredients and sequence. And scaling it up. I made a mini version for two as a trial as soon as corn was in season, re-proportioned it to 6-8 for the immediate family, then to 20 for a larger family gathering over 4th of July weekend, and finally to 75-100 for a big picnic in August. As summer is winding down, I’ll make it a few more times before fresh corn is back next year.  

What I like about this recipe is that it can – and should – be made a day or so ahead. I figured this out because the leftovers from my first batch were better the next day after lime infused the salad. This is basically the same dressing as the lemon-paprika dressing that I use for lentil salad, though there I mince the peel instead of grating it. When you scale up the recipe, you probably don’t need to double or triple the dressing, especially not the lime zest.

With the addition of lime and use of fresh-cooked ingredients, this salad is so much better than the ubiquitous corn and black bean salsa that you see everywhere. It’s familiar though, and that’s important for a big picnic.

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Lime Dressing

Main ingredients

2½ c cooked black beans (from ½ lb dried black beans or 2 15-oz cans, drained and rinsed)

3 ears corn (yielding about 2½ c kernels)

1/3 c red pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice

1/3 c orange pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice

2 scallions, thinly sliced or minced

Salt to taste

Dressing

1 tsp lime zest (grated lime peel)

1/3 c lime juice (from 2 limes)

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp paprika

Pinch cayenne

Pinch salt

Garnish

Cilantro leaves

If you are using dried beans, soak them in water to cover by a few inches for a few hours, add abundant salt and cook them at a slow simmer until crisp-tender. This could take 45-90 minutes depending on the age of the beans.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, paprika, cayenne and a large pinch of salt.

When the beans are tender, drain them (reserving the liquid for another use, like soup or rice cooking liquid). Add some of the dressing to the warm beans and let them cool.

If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them and coat with a little dressing. They won’t have the opportunity to absorb as much of the dressing but they’ll still be good. Diminish the salt if using canned beans since they’re typically pretty salty.

Cut the kernels from the corn. (The easiest way to do this is to stand the cob, stem end down, on a small upturned bowl or cup in the middle of a large bowl and slice the kernels off the cob with a knife from top to bottom. The kernels will fall into the large bowl and not spatter all over your kitchen. Be careful not to bang the knife blade on the supporting cup or bowl since you might dull it.)

In a large wide sauté pan, bring about 3 tbsp – ¼ cup of water to a boil and add the corn kernels. Cook for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool.

When ready to assemble, combine the dressed beans, corn, diced peppers and scallions in a large bowl and coat with the remaining dressing. Chill for a few hours or overnight before serving. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

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