Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pickles and Baba Ghanoush

True confessions time: I don't like cucumbers. At all. I mean, I don't even like them to touch my real food. Their icky flavor invades everything it touches. Yuck. But I love pickles. Oh, the hidden depths of me. So, when I saw the post on Boston Dish about making pickles, I figured I'd give it a go. I used the recipe she linked as my starting point, and made just a few changes.


4 medium sized cucumbers (I only had regular cukes, no pickling cukes)
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper


Thinly slice cucumbers and place in a large bowl. Add salt, mix, and place in the refrigerator for 90 minutes to 3 hours (no need to be exact...I forgot about mine!).

Place cucumbers in a colander and rinse under cold water, then return to the bowl.

Peel and crush garlic cloves. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove seeds.

In a medium saucepan, place all remaining ingredients (except the cucumbers). Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Take my advice and do not put your face over the boiling vinegar. And if you do, certainly don't take a big breath. Just my two cents, based on hard-learned experience!

Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Cover, refrigerate, and wait around 24 hours. Then voila! Magic occurs, and those cucumbers have become pickles! Keep refrigerated and eat within 2 weeks. Or 5 days, if you're us.

These pickles were surprisingly good. I took them to a picnic, and overheard a couple of elementary school kids talking about how good they were. And how sweet they were. These pickles are pretty sweet, which isn't a big surprise given the huge quantity of sugar in the recipe. The longer the pickles sat in the fridge, the more sour they became. So if you don't like very sweet pickles, you may want to give it a few days before you try them.


On an unrelated note, one of my favorite eggplant dishes is Baba Ghanoush. However, I've never been able to find a recipe that is anywhere near as good as our favorite, which sadly is from a restaurant in Atlanta. Not exactly some place we can just pop in when the urge takes us. So in my ongoing quest to find a great Baba Ganoush recipe, I tried one from The Figs Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson. I was intrigued by this recipe as it included mint, an ingredient I never thought to try in Baba Ganoush. I made a few minor changes to the recipe:


4 Chinese Eggplants
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of one lemon
8 mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
minced scallions, lemon zest, and additional olive oil for garnishing
Pita bread


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick egglants all over with a fork, then rub with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet, and roast in the oven, turning once, for approximately 30 minutes (until soft...depends on the size of your eggplant). Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 mintues.

Peel the garlic cloves and throw into a blender (or large food processor if you're lucky enough to have one. My mini just didn't seem up to the challenge of four eggplants!). Cut then ends off each eggplant, cut a slit down the side of each eggplant, and peel the skin off with your fingers. Add the flesh of the eggplant to the blender. Add the tahini and blend until smooth. You'll have to stop and use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients around from time to time.

Add the lemon juice, mint leaves, salt, and pepper, and continue blending (and stirring when necessary) until the mint leaves have been completely incorporated.

Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove to a plate, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and garnish with scallions and lemon zest. Serve with pita bread for dipping.

We enjoyed this recipe, although it still didn't quite live up to our restaurant favorite. The mint was a very interesting addition, and this worked just fine with Chinese Eggplant (the original recipe called for one regular eggplant). While this was good, though, I'll probably keep searching for the elusive "perfect" Baba Ghanoush.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Minty Lamb Meatballs

We picked up some ground lamb from Stillman Farm, and some mint at the CSA. Hmm, mint, lamb, let me look around for a recipe. And boy, did I find a good one: Lamb Meatballs. I followed the recipe pretty closely, just skipping the food processing step as that seemed too fussy for me. Oh, and I omitted the olive oil. Do you know how fatty ground lamb is? I certainly didn't need to add extra fat to fry it!

It's not a huge surprise, but the flavor of the lamb and the mint went together perfectly. And the sauce was a perfect accompaniment. It was really outstanding. TK ate a phenomenal quantity. If we're being honest, so did I :) Even N-man enjoyed them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn and Tomato Salad, Zucchini Cookies

It's hard to believe, but I think I'm finally getting sick of corn on the cob. We've been eating it nearly every day for almost a month, and I'm just starting to look for recipes besides shuck-heat-eat. One of my girlfriends had mentioned she made a corn and tomato salad, but couldn't remember the recipe. So I just winged it. I mean, corn, tomatoes, what else does it need?

I guess I thought of a few more ingredients!

3 ears corn
20 or so cherry tomatoes
10 leaves of basil
Splash of olive oil
Slightly larger splash of balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste


Shuck corn, removing all corn silk. Boil the corn for about 2 minutes. Place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and cool them down. When they are cool, cut off the kernels (be careful, the corn may be hotter near the cob). Put the corn kernels into a bowl.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the corn.

Mince the fresh basil, and add to the bowl. Splash in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a few cracks of pepper and salt, give it a stir, and you're done. If you have time, let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors develop. Or just eat it right away.

We all enjoyed this, although I wasn't that happy with the visual appeal of the dish. Our corn from the CSA was very light this week, nearly white without any sprinklings of yellow. And we had picked mostly golden cherry tomatoes at the farm (I rooted through the salad to get some of the few red cherry tomatoes in the picture above). The balsamic vinegar almost made the light colors look muddy. I don't know, this is all aesthetics...it tasted just fine. But if I was making it again, I'd look for yellower corn and redder tomatoes. Or I'd try a red wine vinegar instead of balsamic. It needs something to brighten up the colors of the dish to match the bright, fresh flavor. Let me know if you figure it out!


This week I also made the chocolate chip zucchini cookies mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I followed the recipe exactly, so I won't reprint it here, and I have to say while they were okay, I was a bit disappointed. The cookies were very soft and cakey, no crunch at all, no matter how long I cooked them (well, within reason. The recipe called for 10-15 minutes cooking, I went as long as 20 minutes with one batch. Still very soft).

They were okay, but nothing special. If I was going to make baked goods from zucchini in the future, I'd probably stick with zucchini bread. And if I felt like adding vegetables to my cookies, I'd probably stick with oatmeal carrot chocolate chip cookies.

But I include this here in case you want to give it a go for the novelty of the recipe, or because you're making all the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle recipes, or just to steer you away if you were on the fence. But as I said, they weren't bad. I mean, it used a whole bag of chocolate chips. How bad could they be? And at the very least, my boys are eating them as fast as I'll let them. Hey, it counts as a vegetable, right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Salad, Zucchini Grinders

I love corn on the cob. I mostly just eat it lightly steamed, or occasionally grilled. But, I've been trying to branch out a little and try some new recipes. One thing I decided to throw together was a corn and black bean salsa. Or salad. I'm not sure which I'd call it, but it was yummy.


1 can (15 oz.) of black beans
4 ears of corn
3 green onions
1 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro (or more to taste)
Ground cumin to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste


Husk corn and cut the kernels off the cobs. Everyone has a favorite way to do it, but if you're a newbie, here's what I do:
1) When you husk the corn, leave the stems intact (don't break off!)
2) Cut a small amount of the bottom (tip end) of the corn off so you have a flat surface (and it gets rid of the kernels that are generally too small or a little yucky at the tip).
3) Get out a big roasting pan. Holding the corn upright in the pan, use a sharp knife to cut rows of corn off. Keep turning the corn until you've cut off all the kernels. The roasting pan will catch all the kernels as they fall from the cob.

In a medium pot, boil water, then add the corn. Boil for about 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. (You could also cook the corn on the cob before you cut the kernels off. I just didn't have time to let the corn on the cob cool before cutting it, so I cut it first). Place corn into a large bowl.

Drain and rinse black beans until the water runs clear. Place into the bowl with the corn.

Thinly slice the whites and greens of the green onions and add to the bowl.

Add the olive oil, minced cilantro, ground cumin, and salt. Stir gently and well.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

That's it. You can eat it as a salad, but I especially liked it as a salsa with pita chips.

For once, this was something my three year old boys would actually eat. They especially loved picking out their black beans, and loved to spoon it onto pita chips (although it would mostly fall off the chips before it reached their mouths).


And here's a quickie bonus recipe: Zucchini Grinders. It's a vegetarian sandwich inspired by a meatball sub. Except you use zucchini instead of meatballs. It's a favorite in our house that I make a few times each summer. When I made them last night, I threw in 4 small diced tomatoes while I sauteed the zucchini. I didn't even bother to peel or seed the tomatoes. You could also add in some eggplant or mushrooms or onions or peppers or really, whatever you happen to have around. Or just follow the recipe as written as it is quite yummy.