Monday, December 22, 2014

Shhh! Sweet Pickles and Secret Restaurant Recipes

So, the other day the book Secret Restaurant Recipes (from the World's Top Kosher Restaurants) arrived at my door.

Hmmm. Did I request this? Win this? 

I'm trying to get all my holiday ducks in a row so I can actually take a few days off, so I've been a little scattered. And some days I just don't remember what I emailed to whom.

In any case, I didn't pay for this book, and I'm fairly certain it came from the publisher and not some secret admirer.

These restaurant-compilation books are always fun because the recipes are usually so varied. Not only different restaurants and chefs, but they're choosing a small sample of their recipes. There was everything from salad to dessert, and a lot in between. Simple and complicated. Common ingredients and not so common.

One recipe that caught my fancy was a recipe for sweet pickles from a restaurant called Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed in Chicago.

For one thing, I used to live in Chicago. And for another, I love pickles of all kinds.

These pickles looked a lot like the bread and butter pickles that my mom made when I was a kid, with a few interesting differences. For one thing, I had to blend an onion, which then became part of the pickling liquid.

But just like the pickles my mom made, and some of the ones I've made since then, these included turmeric, which turned the liquid a brilliant yellow and colored the pickles and onions as well.

The recipe was supposed to make 1 quart of pickles, but I decided to cut in in half. Refrigerator space is at a premium right now, and I simply figured that a pint would be a good enough test.

So, I cut everything neatly in half ... and ended up with a quart-and-a-half of pickles. Hmmm. That's odd. My first thought was that we understood English cucumbers to be different things, and I had way more cucumber than I should have.

But that doesn't seem likely, since the ratio of pickle to onion seemed right in my jars. If I had used that much less cucumber, I would have ended up with pickled onions with some cucumbers thrown in.

And that wouldn't be right.

I suspect that what happened was that someone took a restaurant-sized recipe and cut it way back to an amount that could be made in a home kitchen. And then they looked at the giant bucket of restaurant quantity pickles and figured that if if was divided, it would be about a quart.

When I made this, I left out one thing - it called for 1 teaspoon of pickling spice, which would have been 1/2 teaspoon when I divided it. My pickling spice includes large shards of bay leaves that wouldn't have fit in a half-teaspoon, along with mustard seeds that are already in the recipe, and some scattered allspice berries. I figured that if I tried to get a half-teaspoon of pickling spice, I'd end up with mustard seeds and not much else.

These pickles were really good, similar to the ones mom made, but with a little more onion flavor. And although these are called sweet pickles, they have a good bit of tartness, too. Which is perfect for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these change over the next few weeks.

Sweet Pickles
Adapted from Secret Restaurant Recipes (from the World's Top Kosher Restaurants) 
by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek
From Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed; Chef/owner Bryan Gryka
Note: according to the book this makes 1 quart; based on my result,it should yield 3 quarts

2 yellow onions, divided
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice (I omitted this)
3 English cucumbers, sliced

Cut the first yellow onion into small chunks and add it to a saucepan along with the vinegars. Use a stick blender to puree the onion. (You can also puree the onion in a food processor or blender)

Add the sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, red pepper flakes, pickling salt, and pickling spice. Bring to a simmer.

Put the cucumbers in a stainless steel bowl. Slice the second onion as desired and add it to the cucumbers.

When the vinegar mixture comes to a boil, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and give it a stir. Place a plate or another bowl on top of the cucumbers to weight them down a little to keep them below the liquid and set aside until it has cooled to room temperature, then transfer to jars or other storage containers. Cover and refrigerate.

These are ready to sample as soon as they cool, but they're better after 24 hours (particularly the onions) and they'll continue to pickle over the next week or two.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Grilled Rainbow Pepper Salad - a great, quick, pretty side dish from Sharing Morocco

I have absolutely no problem wandering into the kitchen and whipping up random recipes based on what's in the refrigerator or the pantry. I've got no trouble wandering a grocery store, looking for sales, and creating the bones of a recipe while I'm filling my cart.

But lately I've fallen in love with my cookbooks all over again. I've been participating in book tours, like this one for the book Sharing Morocco.

In case you're not familiar with book tours online, it's when a bunch of bloggers all get a cookbook and post about their experience with the book, sometimes with a recipe. And, this time, I also have one to give away!

Some bloggers like to do interviews or commentary about the style of the book, but I always opt for a recipe, because I think that's what makes readers want a book.

When I saw that one of the recipes permitted for posting was a pepper salad, I knew that's what I had to make.

When I was a kid, I loved green olives (which I understand most kids don't) because of the pimento stuffed in the center. Back then, I thought pimento was something very exotic. I really didn't know if it was fruit, vegetable, or something else. But I totally loved it.

I also loved bell peppers when I was a kid, but we mostly ate them green. If I'd only known that pimentos were ripe and roasted bell peppers, it would have rocked my world.

I was particularly pleased that this recipe was called a salad rather than a garnish or condiment. Bell peppers are awfully popular, but seldom the star. I figured it was about time they got their proper place as a vegetable and not just a flavoring agent.

I used elephant garlic for this, since it's milder and I wanted to tame the garlic flavor just a little bit. I like garlic - a lot - but this time I wanted it just a little milder.

While this is great as a side dish or salad, it would also make a good topping for a sandwich or added to pasta or tossed into a green salad. Or, if you're me, just attack it with a fork.

The instructions suggested having it in a serving bowl, but I thought it looked pretty in a jar. And it was easier for storage, too.

Grilled Rainbow Pepper Salad
Salada del Fulfla
Serves 4 to 6
From Sharing Morocco, by Ruth Barnes
Printed with permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press (October 7, 2014)

The author said: This colorful salad is an excellent side to any main dish or fantastic on its own or with any bread. It is usually found at meals for family gatherings (my daughter always requests it for such occasions) and will brighten up any lunch or dinner table.

1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the grill on medium heat.

Grill the peppers, turning with tongs, until the skin is loose and charred on all sides and the peppers are tender.

Allow the peppers to cool and then remove the skins.

Cut away and discard the stems and seeds from the peppers.

Cut the peppers into strips, put in a serving bowl, and add the garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with the salt and pepper, and mix to combine.

Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: I thought these were better after even longer storage - like the next day. The flavors had more of a chance to mingle, and the bite of the garlic was softened a bit more.

I received this book from the publisher, and they are providing one copy for a giveaway.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Roasted Beet Soup for #HolidayHosting with Anolon

When I was growing up, beet soup, otherwise known as borscht, was often on the table, but it was pretty much guaranteed to be served on Christmas Eve. Mom's beet soup didn't vary very much, and it always included sour cream to be mixed into the finished soup, and diced cucumbers to add some crunch.

Later I found out that there were a huge number of variations of borscht, including one with tomatoes and another with no beets at all.

This version is similar to what mom made, as far as ingredients, but it has one major change - I roasted the vegetables instead of boiling them, which gives the soup more depth of flavor.

But the sour cream, which adds body and richness to the soup - and turns it a beautiful bright color - and the crunchy cucumbers are still in the soup.

Want to give it a try? You'll find the entire recipe over on Anolon's website. It's waiting for you RIGHT HERE.

Oh, but that's not all! I have a MEGA-GIVEAWAY for you.

Over the course of six weeks, I developed six different recipes specifically for the Anolon products. This is the last one. I'm a little sad that it's over, because it's been so much fun. But it's not quite over for you. There's that giveaway you can still enter.

And I have ALL SIX Anolon items to give away. The same ones I got. And I'm giving all six to ONE PERSON. Isn't that AWESOME???

I'm pretty excited about this, because I LOVE Anolon products - I've already got some of their cookware, and I use it all the time, and I'm super-excited about the new stoneware and cast iron items.

And Anolon is having their own giveaways, so be sure to stalk them during this 6-week promotion!

The six items I am giving away are:

Anolon Advanced Pie Pan
I used this for the pie recipe, here.

Anolon Vesta Stoneware 9x13” Baker in Paprika Red
I used this for my bread pudding stuffing, here.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Hard Anodized 10” Covered Skillet 
I used this for my stuffed mushroom recipe, here.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 3Qt Covered Sauté 
I made a risotto using this pan. The recipe is HERE.

Anolon Advanced Umber 3.5Qt Covered Chef’s Pan
I used this pan for some pretty stunning stuffed artichokes. Recipe HERE.

And this is the gorgeous red oval cast iron Dutch oven I used for my beet soup.
Don't you LOVE it? I sure do!

You need one more view of the soup. With the pan.

And I'm giving all these great items away. Well, not the bowls or the soup, but all of the Anolon goodies will go to ONE LUCKY WINNER! All six!

The giveaway starts when this post goes live and will end on December 26 at midnight, mountain time. US winners only. The giveaway widget will post with each week's recipe, and I will add NEW ways to enter each week related to the week's new post, like new tweets and new pins. So make sure you come back every week and see what I've made, and ENTER TO WIN!

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This post is sponsored by Anolon. They supplied products for my use as well as compensation for recipe creation. They are also providing the prizes for the contest winner. Although I was paid to create a recipe, all words and ideas are my own.
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