Monday, September 30, 2013

Darryl’s Hot Sweet Pickles

Are you ready for this? Give a big Nicole-Parton’s-Favorite-Recipes’ welcome to our old pal Darryl Paulsen and his lovely wife, Judy! 



You remember Darryl, creator of one of the best paella recipes ever? The recipe blew your socks off when I posted it in October, 2012: It remained each week’s best-read recipe for ages and ages. You’ll find it indexed under Main Dish: Seafood (Darryl Paulsen’s Spanish Paella). It’s excellent!

At the time Darryl whipped up his paella recipe, he waxed enthusiastic about a hot sweet pickle recipe he claimed was the easiest ever! “Hot” is the operative word: It requires ½ c. of Tabasco sauce! Heck, many long-married couples aren’t even on their second bottle of Tabasco. 

Says Darryl: “This recipe turns a whole lot of dill pickles into a whole lot of hot sweet pickles!” Says Judy: “You have to try this! If you’re over 60, take a Pepcid before eating one of these pickles!”

Originally named Super Sweet Pickles, the recipe came from Minnie Lewis, who hails from parts unknown. I’ve taken the liberty of renaming this tasty dish Darryl’s Hot Sweet Pickles. Anything Darryl cooks is outstanding, so I’ll just move out of the way before the stampede starts, because everyone will want to get their mitts on the recipe. With no more (or less) ado, here’s what Minnie invented, Darryl perfected, and Judy consumes with such pleasure.

Darryl’s Hot Sweet Pickles:

This recipe requires three days’ marination 

½ gallon (64 fl. oz. or about 2 L) dill pickles (Darryl favors the priced-right pickles from Costco) 
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ c. (125 mL) Tabasco sauce
3 c. granulated sugar, divided

Your starting point!

Drain dills! Save juice!

Slice dills into chunks

Drain pickles, reserving juice if desired (see Note). Slice large pickles into 1-in. chunks; leave the smaller ones whole.

Return chunked pickles to empty jar

Return pickles to empty jar, layering with garlic, hot sauce, and 1 c. granulated sugar. 

Did someone say garlic and hot sauce?

Replace lid tightly, shaking until sugar starts to dissolve. Let stand overnight or up to 24 hr. at room temperature. The second morning, add 1 c. granulated sugar. 

Add granulated sugar over three days

Replace lid tightly, shake, and repeat standing process at room temperature (I turned the jar upside-down the second time). The third morning, add the final 1 c. granulated sugar. Shake jar until sugar dissolves completely. Label with date and contents; refrigerate. Will keep up to three months.

These pickles arent as hot as the Paulsens made out. Theyre also sinfully addictive. Ron and I are going to have another one right now! 

My, oh, my! These are great!
Note: You’ll think this recipe doesn’t have enough liquid. No worries - by the second and third days, it will make plenty of pickle juice on its own. Don’t change a thing in the recipe and it will turn out just fine. 

Further Note: Don’t discard that dill pickle juice! See my terrific recipe for Easiest-Ever Pickled Eggs, indexed under Appetizers: Egg-Based. I made this great egg recipe at the same time I prepared these pickles. As with the pickles, these eggs also need three days’ marination. Ron and I are about to have a pickled egg, too. There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dinner Party Series: Beans is Beans

Durned if it wasn’t a dark and stormy night! We was goin’ campin’ but it was rainin’ so hard that we had t camp indoors!

Who says a dinner party has to have witty adult conversation, pretty china, and an elegantly served meal? Who says everyone has to use their adult manners and indoor voices and be on their best behavior? What if we all just ... let loose?

We don’t want none o’ them fancy plates or lah-de-dah drinkin’ cups, neither. Anythin’s good nuff fer us. An’ beans! We gotta have beans! That’s what camp cook-outs is all about!

We hosted a very special dinner party Friday night. 
We took our grand-daughters camping. The sounds of the night, the warmth of the campfire, and the satisfaction of a simple but filling dinner all worked their magic, so that each of us fell fast asleep by 8:45. Because it really was a dark and stormy night, camping outdoors was out of the question.

The night sounds were delivered via iPod, the campfire was safely behind glass in the living room, and dinner was a mess o’ beans with Skillet Biscuits on the side. 

All you need to employ this idea - part of a series indexed as Dinner Party - is a tent, grandchildren d'un certain âge, and beans  ... lots and lots of beans! For an authentic “camp feeling, we provided a few optional extras, as the photos below will show. 

What they don’t show - I was moving too fast to take pictures - is the open-flame Japanese cooker I set up on the living room coffee table. After preparing beans + bacon + wieners in the kitchen, I reheated everything in a large cast-iron pot over the cooker before slopping the beans onto the metal pie pans that served as plates. The same cooker warmed the chocolate for the marshmallows that were dessert (see the Index under Candy and Confections: Marshmallows in the Embers). But I’m getting ahead of myself here. 

It all started with the tent. Ours, I must confess, was slightly on the stinky side, thanks to our not having dried it well enough after a camping adventure with a different batch of grandchildren. A heavy dose of pine-scented room deodorizer and plenty of airing more or less fixed the problem (“Grandma ... What’s that smell? “It’s the pines, dear! Eat your beans!”)

It all starts with a tent.

And ahhhh! Those beans! Just as beans are essential to any cook-out, watching the Bean Scene from Blazing Saddles is also essential.

I combined our canned beans with softly fried chunks of bacon (see Note) and three boiled wieners, chopped into pieces.  

Beans is beans, even when you gussy them up

The shock of the night came in seeing that my usual brand of beans had gone all hoity-toity on me with fancy flavors. There are now Beans with Pork and Molasses, Beans with Smoky Molasses Sauce, Beans with Brown Sugar and Bacon, and Beans with Pork and Tomato Sauce. They all tasted the same to me, but let’s ask an expert. Tex ..?

Everbuddy knows beans is beans!  Everbuddy that’s sensible ordnary folks. Put all them beans in a tastin’ contest and they’s all the same - anyway, anyhow, you betcha (’ceptin’ fer them Etta Mammy beans them high falutin’ New York folks eats with their fingies).

So now you know! Beans is beans. All three flavors bubbled away on the cooker on the coffee table. At the end of the day, they tasted exactly as beans always do - no better, no worse. 

But back to our tent! Campers need books to stimulate the mind!

Perhaps todays kids are more sophisticated than we were ...

We provided our young campers with flashlights, and with an amazing device theyd never seen before - a transistor radio!

The kids lost interest in the radio after discovering they couldnt play Super Mario 3D World on it, but they put the flashlights to good use once night came on.

The kids insisted the kitchen-sink water they drank from Mason jars had actually come from “the old watering hole.” As campers do, they endured hardships, washing their hands and faces in an old tub and hanging their towels out to dry. 

It was difficult, but they whiled away the long, lonely hours with only the comfort of their iPads and an old Stars Wars movie ...

Morning found the children greatly refreshed. 

And why wouldn’t they be? They were full of beans!

It wasn’t long before we’d rustled up a camp-fire breakfast to send them on their way. 

Seldom have we had more fun at a dinner party! We’ll hang on to our tent for awhile. The next generation of campers is growing up fast!

My recipe for Skillet Biscuits appears in the post, below.

Note: Save the bacon fat for frying these camp-style biscuits!

Skillet Biscuits

The perfect camping biscuit, these are ready from start to finish in 15 minutes. I also call these “It’s Quick” Biscuits, because they’re every bit as fast as the mix with the similar name.

Skillet Biscuits:

1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice
1 c. milk
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Dash of salt
½ c. butter or margarine
Strained bacon drippings, as needed

See the Note that follows this recipe before starting. I prepared these in a skillet, but you may prefer to bake them in the oven. If so, preheat oven to 425 deg. F. 

Stir vinegar or lemon juice into milk in measuring cup. Let stand 5 min. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl, mixing well. Cut butter or margarine into dry ingredients until butter is the consistency of small peas. Add milk to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork just until blended. Dough will be soft. Knead 15-to-20 times on floured board. Pat to ½-in. thickness and cut into 2-in. rounds, using a floured glass or biscuit cutter.

Oven Method: Bake buns on lightly greased sheet 12 min., or until lightly browned. Yields 10-to-12.

Skillet Method: Add bacon drippings to a depth of about ¼-in. until hot but not sizzling. Using method above or described in Note below, drop flattened biscuit dough into hot fat about 1 min., or until lightly browned. Turn once to brown second side. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low for 5 min. Remove from heat, allowing to stand, covered, 3-to-5 min. longer. Serve at once. Yields 10-to-12.

Note: I diverted from the usual method of using two knives or a pastry blender to cut the fat into the dry ingredients. I also broke with the normal method of blending the dough with a fork. Although this recipe presents those traditional instructions, I used my fingers for both steps because these were camp biscuits and I wasn’t seeking perfection (Recipes normally call for two knives and a fork because warm fingers warm the fat, changing the dough’s consistency and the texture of the product). 

I nonetheless waded further into Recipe No-No Land, kneading the dough right in the mixing bowl instead of on a flat, floured surface. Rather than pat out the dough and cut it into biscuit sizes, I rolled chunks of it into balls, flattening them between my palms. My methods were unconventional, but quick - and the biscuits turned out fine. 

Roll dough into balls

Flatten with palms

Strained bacon drippings are useful in any camp kitchen

Add biscuit dough to hot fat

Cook as directed

Serve hot, with a little butter on the side

Nothing fancy ... We’re camping!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spinach-Berry Salad with Goat Cheese

This elegant salad offers complex tastes and high nutritional value. Because tossing it would detract from its beauty, I prefer to layer the ingredients and serve the exceptionally good dressing on the side, preferably in a small pitcher everyone can pass around. 

I served this salad as the main dish for a recent late-summer lunch that began with chilled Peach-Champagne Soup - a sure hit with any crowd. Chilled Pinot Gris and No-Knead Artisan Bread accompanied the salad course, with requests for seconds. Chocolate Zebra Cake concluded the meal, all of which you’ll find in the Index.

Spinach-Berry Salad with Goat Cheese:

8 c. (about 12 oz.) baby spinach, rinsed, stemmed, and blotted dry
¼ c. mild red onion, sliced paper-thin and in ½-in. lengths (see Note)
1 avocado, sliced lengthwise into ½-in. widths
1-½ c. fresh strawberries, hulled, rinsed, blotted dry, and quartered 
1-½ c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and blotted dry
4 oz. (125 g) goat cheese, crumbled into ¼-to-½ in. chunks
⅓ c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

To Prepare the Salad:

Layer the ingredients in the order given. Do not toss. Pass White Balsamic Vinaigrette separately. Serves 4-to-6.

To Prepare the White Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (no substitutes)
¾ c. extra virgin olive oil (the best quality you can afford)
½ tsp. honey
⅛ tsp. coarse salt
⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Shake in covered jar. Decant to small pitcher just before serving.

Note: A disc-slicer or mandolin do the best and fastest job of fine-slicing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Easy Cheesy Applesauce Muffins

We like these fresh out of the oven! They also make an excellent snack. To prepare them, I used 
the cinnamon-spiced applesauce I posted in yesterday’s blog.

Easy Cheesy Applesauce Muffins:

½ c. butter or margarine
⅔ c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-¾ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon (see Note)
1 c. applesauce (canned or homemade)
½ c. grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Cream butter and sugar together until no grainy feeling remains when you rub some of the batter between your thumb and index finger. Beat in eggs. Combine dry ingredients in a small, separate bowl. Add ⅓ of dry ingredients to batter, beating in well. Add ½ applesauce, continuing to beat. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients. Stir in cheddar. Spoon into ungreased paper liners in muffin pans, filling each ⅔ full. Sprinkle top of each muffin with a coating of Cinnamon Sugar (see Extra Note) or top with extra grated cheese. Bake 20-to-25 min., until toothpick inserted in centre of muffin comes out dry. Yields 1 dozen standard-sized muffins.

Note: See the Index for How to Make Cinnamon Sugar.

Beat together all ingredients, stirring in cheddar at the end.

Grate sharp cheddar.

Spoon into muffin pan liners.
Now you see it ... Now you don’t!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Down-Home Applesauce

The other day, I saw a backyard tree laden with yellow-skinned apples. I immediately knew that I was looking at the most treasured apple of all. Known as “transparents” in parts of North America, these apples doubtless have their equivalent in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where You Live. 

Grocery stores don’t sell transparent apples because they don’t ship well, bruising easily and lasting a very short time. They don’t even survive the rigors of travel in lunch bags. But ohhh, are they prized by anyone making applesauce, apple pies, or by anyone seeking apples for canning and freezing!

As with corn, apples have been dumbed down to a handful of commercially available species. To find real apples (and real corn outside the bland “peaches and cream” variety), you must seek out an orchard, a farm, or - as with transparent apples - someone willing to share the bounty of a backyard tree.

I wasnt fortunate enough to find transparent apples for this recipe. Transparents cook “soft” - crumbling as they simmer in sauce, remaining intact but fork-tender in pies. It occurred to me as I peeled and cored a few apples that some readers may never have made applesauce before. What a pity! Homemade applesauce releases the flavors of Fall, inviting friends in and keeping the cold out.

I used a fair amount of cinnamon in this recipe. Use less, if you prefer. Add more water if you like your sauce runny; not so much if you want your sauce in chunks. Use a hand blender (an “immersion” blender) as I did, or a simple potato masher to achieve the texture you want. 

The method you use will depend on the type of apples you use. Of course, if you cook with transparents - the perfect cooking apple - the sauce will practically make itself! Consider this recipe flexible. There are no “rules” for making applesauce. Just eat and enjoy it to suit your personal taste.

I used the small number of apples I prepared here to make Easy Cheesy Applesauce Muffins. I hope you’ll watch for that post tomorrow.

Down-Home Applesauce:

4 medium apples, cored, peeled, coarsely chopped
¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. water
¼ c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine apples, water, and spiced sugar in heavy saucepan. Bring just to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer. Insert a toothpick between pot and lid to prevent boil-overs. Simmer, covered, 20 min., stirring occasionally (see Note)With lid still on, remove from heat and allow to steam. True cooking apples will not need mashing or blendering. Sadly, my sturdier apples did.

Note: Simmering times vary with the type of apples you use. Softer apples such as transparents don’t need steaming.

Peel, core, and chop apples

Heap into heavy-based saucepan

Add sugar, cinnamon, and water

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer

Blenderize to desired texture

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nicole’s Seasoning Salt Substitute

In the days when I was young and poor, I used to make this sodium-free substitute for seasoning salt. I stumbled across the recipe just the other day, and - now that I’m old and poor - thought it might be a good idea to resurrect it! 

Nicole’s Seasoning Salt Substitute:

1 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. paprika
1-½ tsp. black pepper or cayenne powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme

Shake together in covered jar. Label and store up to one year in dark, dry, cool place. 

Note: If you can’t shake the sodium habit, transform this into Seasoning Salt by adding 1-to-2 tbsp. iodized or sea salt.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lois and Linda’s Tomato Marmalade

Lois Elsa Hole was an extraordinary woman whose accomplishments as an academician, 
Now you see it ... now you dont!
entrepreneur, politician, gardener, best-selling author, and wife (not necessarily in that order) were legendary. Her engaging personality made her greatly loved and respected among Canadians and particularly Albertans. Rather than recite her many achievements, I invite you to put her name into a search engine and prepare to have your socks blown off.

Lois Holes recipe for Tomato Marmalade is a favorite of my very good friend, Linda Walkem Hall. A great gardener herself, Linda has a prized copy of one of Hole’s several books, Vegetable Favorites, which is where this recipe originates. Ever heard of marmalade made with tomatoes? Me, neither. 

Although Lois Holes original recipe was excellent, what appears below is Lindas tweak of that recipe. I’ve tasted what Linda did - she recently favored us with a jar of this excellent marmalade - and I can promise it is superb

Not surprisingly, this marmalade went very fast. I poured it over a brick of cream cheese to serve with crackers, but am sure it would also make an excellent accompaniment for meats and fish, as well as being hard to beat in a peanut butter sandwich. 

Fall tomatoes are at their peak right now in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. If you’re going to make just one batch of preserves this year, make it this recipe. Youll love it! The several hours this needs on the stove is no mistake - preserved tomatoes need long, slow cooking no matter how “ready” they look after 10 minutes. Im not a food scientist, Dollinks, but tomatoes’ lengthy cooking time has to do with food safety. If you remain unconvinced, read all about it by perusing credible Internet sources

Lois and Linda’s Tomato Marmalade:

12-to-16 ripe medium-to-large tomatoes 
2 lemons
1-½ tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped 
¼ c. plus 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 
3 c. granulated sugar 

Blanch, peel, and coarsely chop enough tomatoes to equal 12 c. (see Note). Bring tomatoes just to the boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 hr. or until tomatoes are reduced to about 8 c.  

Wash lemons, removing pips and chopping finely. Peel ginger, chopping finely. Add lemons, ginger, cider vinegar and sugar to tomatoes in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Immediately reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook,  uncovered and stirring frequently, 2-to-3 hr. on low heat until thick. To check the marmalade’s “set point,” see the recipe for Dundee Marmaladebelow.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars; seal and label (see Further Note). Makes about five 8-oz. jars. Store sealed jars no longer than one year at room temperature; store unsealed jars no longer than two weeks in the refrigerator.

Note: Blanching is an important step to preserve the taste and nutritional value of foods intended for long-term storage through canning or freezing. To blanch tomatoes, plunge them into boiling water for 15-to-20 sec., and then immediately into an ice water bath. With foods such as fresh beans, this halts the cooking process to keep them crisp. With foods such as tomatoes, blanching also allows you to peel away the skin much more easily. 
Further Note: Welcome to Home Canning 101! Experienced canners know the ropes, but if you’ve never preserved foods before, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the box of jars or lids. 

Tomato Marmalade: Soon to be your go-to favorite!

The bounty from Linda’s country kitchen