Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pickled dilled beans (p. 949)

My name is Jessica and I'm a horribly inattentive blogger.

I am 23 recipes behind. I promise to catch up. And I'm going to work in the opposite direction I normally do--I'm going to write about the recipe I made the most recently and work backwards, so if you don't have a blog reader, make sure to check back and read backdated posts--I will have to write at least 10 posts in the next couple days. And some are about absolutely delicious foods that you don't want to miss.

I'm always conflicted when I write about canned items. Should I post when I make them or when I taste them? Any opinions? I made Pickled dilled beans (p. 949) from my farmer's market finds (Des Moines has one of the best farmer's markets in the country, hands down).

I like canning with my mom. First off, it makes me feel like a pioneer woman for some reason--probably because in every young adult pioneer book I've ever read, the heroine seems to can food for winter with her mom. Second, I'm less terrified of botulism when mom is helping me. Apparently, I am confident in mom's ability to limit my botulism exposure.

Mom was making her delicious pickles and I thought I could get in on the pickling action with my beans.

I boiled white vinegar, water, and canning salt:

I (or rather mom) sterilized my jar, packed it with green beans, dill, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes:

Make more brine than they recommend--my jars were smaller than recommended and my double recipe of brine did not fill two jars. It may be because my green beans weren't "plump" like recommended but I took what I could get!

I poured boiling brine into the jars, sterilized the lids, and popped them on.

I made three jars--it was interesting to see the color change as they cooked in the hot brine!

I have no idea what these taste like because they have to pickle! I will have to update this recipe when iI finally get to eat them. Mom wanted me to add alum to keep the pickles crisp, but I figured I needed to accurately see how crisp the TJOC recipe beans are before applying modifications.

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Ratatouille provencale (p. 274) and Tofu Salad (p. 317)

When I think of Ratatouille provencale (p. 274) I think of the movie about the cooking rat. And, I'm sorry to Ratatouille (the movie) lovers out there--it just didn't do anything for me. The idea of all those rats in the kitchen was really, really gross. Esp. the end of the movie.

I've been putting off making ratatouille for a while because of my hatred of red peppers. Red peppers don't seem to be an optional ingredient in the dish and Josh was unlikely to want to eat an entirely vegan dish several times. My mom loves red peppers and zucchini and I'm convinced she would love eggplant if she would just give it a chance, so it seemed a perfect dish to make.

I cooked an eggplant and zucchini in olive oil. For one thing, a quarter cup of olive oil wasn't nearly enough--the eggplant soaked it right up and then it all started to brown too fast. For another, I read this recipe as called for one zucchini and it actually calls for a pound, so my ratatouile

I removed the zucchini and eggplant to a dish and then added in sliced onion.

I removed the onion from the pan and added red pepper and garlic, only then noticing that I wasn't supposed to remove the onion from the pan and had very likely overcooked it.

I then added tomatoes, thyme, and a bay leaf, and cooked the concoction for five more minutes:

Finally, the eggplant and zucchini were added back in and cooked for twenty minutes. Finished!

(Imagine a beautiful picture of ratatouille)

For some reason, I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished product, even though it was beautiful. And I can't take a picture of what my mom has in the fridge, because she added corn to it for some mysterious reason. She said it was delicious but seemed more like a side dish than a main course. I thought it was a perfect main dish option if you had vegans or vegetarians coming over for dinner and didn't want to make the ubiquitous pasta dish. It was surprisingly fast and easy--the chopping was even easy, fast chopping.

For some reason, the placement of the tofu, tempeh, TVP, and seitan dishes really makes me laugh. They are in the back of the "Vegetables" section like an afterthought. I can imagine the Beckers sitting around, trying to fit these ingredients in and having trouble--
"Well, they aren't really grains."
"So are the vegetables?"
"Not really. But I suppose that's as good as anything else."
"So...do we work them into the alphabetical order?"
"Hmmm...no. Just throw them into the back. I figure both people who want to make tofu salad will find the recipe."

Or at least that's how I imagine the conversation going.

Honestly, I think the average person who gets excited about Tofu Salad (p. 317) is probably not an active TJOCer but I could be wrong. My mom brought this recipe on herself. I mentioned how getting Josh to eat moo shu tempeh was going to be nearly impossible and she said she would eat it. So I quickly followed that up with a question about the tofu, seitan, and TVP recipes and she relied that she would try them all. 'DONE!' I thought.

I started the tofu salad before she could change her mind. TJOC says to cut up the tofu and then mix in the ingredients but I didn't want my cubes to break up. I thought it made a lot more sense to mix up the sauce first and then add the tofu.

The sauce had a few "mandatory" ingredients (mayo, Dijon mustard, red onion, celery, carrot, and basil) and a few optional ingredients (capers, chili powder, ground red pepper, white wine vinegar) and I added them all.

Extra firm tofu is really easy to cut into cubes:

And I mixed it together:

The tofu salad was really good! If you hate tofu, you will be likely to hate this salad too, but if you either like tofu, or have no opinion, it's a good one to try. The chili powder and ground red pepper lent a little heat, the capers and mustard gave some tang, and everything else lent some sweetness. It was a very well rounded salad and mom and I both liked it. TJOC mentions that it is good on a sandwich and I'm sure that's true. The recipe was super easy too.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled venison chops with blue cheese and caraway butter (p. 529)

After knocking out a game recipe with Rachel on Saturday night, it seemed smart to make a second dish for lunch on Sunday using the rest of the venison loin. We decided that Grilled venison chops with blue cheese and caraway butter (p. 529) looked promising.

I mixed butter with blue cheese, caraway seeds, Worcestershire sauce, and a little salt and pepper. We used Rachel's new immersion blender which turns into a little chopper (I have the same blender and I LOVE it).



I cut the venison into chops:

The chops were quickly cooked and topped with butter:

This was a seriously delicious dish. The slight gaminess of the venison was offset by the strong flavors of blue cheese and caraway. I always associate caraway with bread or cabbage, so it was interesting to use it to spice meat. Jon and I both thought this was the superior dish of the two while Rachel liked the steaks with tomato sauce. Both of these meals were good enough to convince me that maybe I was too hasty with my dislike of venison. And I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on some more of the deer meat the next time I'm in town--I have five more recipes to make!

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sauteed venison steaks (p. 528)

One of my best friends got married Saturday and after an arduous journey that kept me on tarmacs for more than seven hours and caused me to get into Des Moines at 1 AM (making me miss both the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner) I was even more happy to be there. Congrats Rachel and Jon! Rachel has been one of my biggest supporters since the very beginning of TJOTJOC and regular readers will remember her from my birthday, New Year's Eve, and the wedding.

I don't have many wedding pictures but here is my mom, Rachel, and me (not the most flattering picture of any of us but the only one I have):

Since the happy couple wasn't leaving for their amazing honeymoon (Prague and Italy!) for a couple of weeks, Rachel recommended that I come up to Ames and cook dinner. I thought it was a great idea and then she pointed out that I could cook venison and make progress on the woefully neglected "Game" chapter, which was a marvelous idea!

For dinner we thought Sauteed venison steaks (p. 528) looked good. Neither Rachel or I are venison fans so we weren't particularly excited.

TJOC says to brown four garlic cloves in olive oil. This is what Rachel thought was about four cloves:

Forty cloves maybe. I was fine with it though--I love garlic! No vampires would attack us. There was no way I was discarding the garlic like TJOC recommended. Almost anything is better with more garlic!

I pounded six venison steaks into submission:

They were cooked in the skillet at high heat, which was terrifying. Oil was leaping out at us. The steaks cooked REALLY fast.

We then added two pounds of tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper to the pot and simmered:

When it was reduced, I added black olives and a little white wine and poured it over the steaks:

It was good! This was the least gamey venison I've ever eaten. I swear it's because Iowa game tends to graze the corn and soybeans so they "finish" themselves on grain. This sauce would be really good on beef or buffalo, too. The sauce kept extremely well and was even better the next day.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Crostini (p. 642) and Apple or fruit crisp (p. 692)

One of my favorite dishes in the summer is one of the most simple--I slice a tomato, sprinkle it with plenty of feta cheese, and then douse it in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This combination is best over crusty bread. I thought that Crostini (p. 642) would be perfect.

I cut a loaf of french bread into slices and brushed them with olive oil

And popped them in the oven to toast:

Incredibly simple and really good. I think the crostini would be even better sprinkled with garlic powder and shredded Parmesan cheese.

I've really been trying to make progress on the under-represented chapters of TJOC. I'm almost at 50% on some chapters while I haven't made a single recipe out of other chapters. And the dessert chapters are easily some of the chapters in which I'm most behind.

One of the benefits of living in Colroado is the cheap peaches. I picked up a few pounds of them at the grocery store and looked for a good recipe. Apple or fruit crisp (p. 692) looked promising.

I really hate peeling peaches. I'm sure there is is a trick to it but I don't know what it is. I peeled 2.5 pounds of peaches, cut them into chunks and spread them in the baking dish.

I combined flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and then added cold butter:

I used my pastry blender on it until it resembled crumbs. How do you make pastry in a food processor? Is it easier? I always do mine by hand.

I spread the mixture on the peaches:

And baked it:

The crisp made the whole house smell like peaches which was delicious. The crisp was REALLY good and was even better with vanilla ice cream. TJOC mentions that almost any fruit can be used in this recipe but I think peaches are perfect. The recipe was INCREDIBLY easy and only took about 5 minutes of active time (not including peeling the peaches).

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