Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sweet Asian Pickles

Do you know those tangy and sweet pickled vegetables served at Asian restaurants? This recipe is so easy (only 3 ingredients) and explodes with a tangy sweet punch of flavor.  My kids love sweet pickles from the pickle guy at the farmer's market.  And, I love those Asian pickled vegetables served as sides in restaurants. Truthfully, I can eat a whole bowl of those delicious crunchy pickles.  

We bought these lovely Kirby cucumbers at the farmer's market, which do not have seeds.  If you cannot find Kirby, you can use Persian cucumbers which don't have too many seeds.

Slice the pickles and sweat the pickles in a bowl to draw out the cucumber's liquid.  Just sprinkle a bit of salt, massage into cucumbers, and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.

After sweating the pickles, you will see liquid form at the bottom of the bowl.  The pickles also shrink a bit in size and look less firm.

I packed my pickles in old jam jars, which is great for recycling.  When not used as pickle jars, these jars are great as extra glassware for serving drinks.

I decided to pickle some carrots and string beans, too. The options are really limitless.

 After a day or two in the fridge, your pickles are ready to serve. This recipe passed the Kid-O-Meter with flying colors.  Great way for everyone to eat more veggies! They are handy to have in the fridge for adding to salads, for a snack or to compliment an entree.  We recently packed these pickles to eat at the beach as a healthy snack.

I reviewed a few online recipes and was drawn to the simplicity of the recipe from the "Mummy, I Can Cook" blog, but adapted by reducing the sugar.

Sweet Asian Pickles

Vegetables - I used 6 kirby cucumbers, 1 carrot and a few string beans
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspons of kosher salt

1. Combine and stir the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer on low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

2. Slice the cucumbers and sprinkle with the salt. Massage the salt into the cucumbers to sweat. Let the cucumbers sit for about 10 minutes. You will see the cucumber juices form at the bottom of the bowl.

2. Rinse the cucumbers to remove the salt.  You may want to taste a cucumber at this point to ensure you have rinsed off all the salt.

3. Pack the pickles and veggies into jars with a tight lid. I used old jam jars.  

4. Pour the sugar and vinegar mixture over vegetables to cover.  Seal jars tightly and place in refridgerator for at least 12 hours before serving. The taste of the pickles evolves as they sit in the brine. 

I prefer my pickles to sit in the brine for 2 days to get a really nice strong flavor. Hmm, what can I pickle next?

Read More »

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blueberry Sherbet

I'm cooking like crazy with berries lately. Summer is here and my kids gobble up all the berries in the house. This blueberry sherbert reminds me of that great tangy orange sherbert flavor, but with fresh blueberries.

I tried a few recipes and this one from Brown Eyed Baker got the winning vote in my household.
Blueberry Sherbert

3 cups of blueberries
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of buttermilk
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1.  Puree blueberries and sugar in a blender until smooth.  Pour through a fine sieve to remove the bits of solids.  I strained twice to get as much solids removed. Discard solids.

2. Stir in buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla extract.

3.  Churn in a well chilled ice cream maker.  I found that my ice cream maker is best chilled at least 2 days in the freezer.  Transfer to an air tight container and freeze until sherbert is firm.

Read More »

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sweet Corn Risotto

Besides the abundance of summer fruits, I just love the fresh corn available this time of the year.  My family grew up only buying corn from supermarkets where the corn may have been sitting for who knows how long.  I'm lucky to live near farmer's markets where we can get corn that may have been picked the same day.

Corn is one of those comfort foods. It's just so good when it is the season, which is right now during the summer months. I went looking for a corn risotto dish and came upon this recipe from Food52 website and Sunshine Sweet Corn (I've made some minor tweaks to the recipe and included below). I really liked the idea of using the corn cobs for the homemade stock for that extra rich corn flavor. If you don't usually make homemade stock, don't get alarmed. This recipe is really simple.
Sweet Corn Risotto

Corn Stock:
6 cobs of sweet corn, raggedly stripped of kernels
6 cups of water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

1. Add water to a 4-quart pot with a lid.  Add salt, smashed garlic and corn cobs.

2. Bring water to boil and cover.  Simmer at low heat for 60 minutes.

3. Discard garlic pieces.  Using tongs, hold each corn cob by the end and using the edge of a spoon or knife, scrape each cob for juices.  Discard cobs and do not strain the liquid.  Add the 1 cup of chicken stock. Keep the stock at a simmer for making the risotto. You want the stock hot when you add it to the risotto.

Corn Risotto:
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 Tbl butter
1/3 cup shallots
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
7 cups of broth, simmering in separate pot
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1-1/2 cup reserved uncooked corn kernels (you will have extra corn kernels for another use)
3 Tbl butter, cold and chopped into cubes

 1. Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan or pot on medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until they start to turn brown, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and thyme, and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.

2. Add risotto to the pan and stir to coat each kernel with the butter/oil mixture.  Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes until rice absorbs all the fat.

3.  Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan.  Simmer until rice absorbs all the wine.  About 2-3 minutes.

4. Add 1/2 cup ladle of simmering corn broth to the rice mixture. Stir constantly as the broth is absorbed by the rice. The heat should be at a level which creates a slow simmering like bubbling oatmeal. Repeat ladeling and stirring until rice is al dente, with a small chew to it.  It should take about 20-30 minutes.  Rice should look creamy.  

5.  When rice is done, turn off heat.  Add cold butter and stir quickly.  Add parmesan cheese and uncooked corn kernals.  Stir to combine. Cover the pot and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Read More »

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Strawberry Sherbert


Every weekend we hit the local farmer's market and now is the height of the summer berry season.  The rest of the year the strawberries just don't taste the same and are often shipped from greenhouses in California all the way to New York.  Well, I'm trying to enjoy the most of the berry season as the summer is winding its way down.  This is one fruit my kids will just eat, and eat and eat.  I love it!

Our ice cream maker has been getting a bit of a workout with the hot summer weather.  I've been making a lot of fruit sorbets. Making a frozen dessert keeps the berries around a bit longer than just gobbling them all up right from the basket. Strawberries and cream kept on calling me, but summer season begs for a slightly lighter alternative. I looked at several strawberry sorbet recipes and adjusted it a bit to make this strawberry sherbet.  I was inspired by David Lebowitz's Perfect Scoop cookbook and the Tasty Kitchen blog. The strawberry flavor is intense and cannot compare to any store bought strawberry ice cream. My kids are brutally honest taste testers and this one got a high-five!

Summer Strawberry Sherbert


1 lb. Strawberries, washed and hulled

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1.  Slice the strawberries and toss with the sugar.  Cover ad let sit for 1 hour so that the strawberries let out their natural juices.

2. Place the strawberries into a blender.  Blend until smooth.

3. Strain the strawberry seeds through a fine mesh strainer.  You may need to press the pulp and seeds with the backside of a wooden spoon to get all the juices.  

4. Add the lemon juice and milk. Stir to combine and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Freeze according to the ice cream maker directions.  Note: I find my ice cream maker must be well chilled at least 24-36 hours in advance.
Read More »

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Isreali Couscous Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Almonds

The days are hot and humid here in New York City.  I was looking for a light salad that would seem healthy and not just another green salad.  I've been exploring lots of grain salads lately and came across this salad from the Food Network (courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis).  My kids love to nibble on the tiny couscous balls.

I made some slight modifications while making the recipe. I pealed the apples, because the skin seemed a bit waxy and I also mixed whole wheat and plain couscous.  Be careful of toasting the almonds in the oven.  They get brown really quickly!  I was a bit hesitant using maple syrup in a salad dressing, but it really works to bring out the sweetness in the apple.  This salad is sweet, crunchy and tangy with the green apples.  Does that hit all those flavor profiles they talk about in those cooking shows?

Isreali Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs
Adapted from Food Network,  Giada De Laurentiis


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 medium green apple, peeled and diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook's Note

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.  If the couscous seems a bit wet, you can spread it out on a parchment lined baking tray to dry out.  Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour half the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.  Taste before pouring the rest.

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

I hope you enjoy this salad!  

Read More »