25 October 2010

Pickled Green Beans

I bought pickled green beans at the farmer's market over the summer. They were fantastic! They cost $10 for a jar. One pound of raw organic farmer's market green beans costs $2. Cheaper if you get not organic and from somewhere else. I figured I could make them myself for a lot less (because I'm cheap).

I've always been sort of scared of canning things. But if you're only pickling (as opposed to making jams or sauces), you don't have to go through the hassle of boiling everything in a large pot and worrying about sterility. You're keeping this stuff in vinegar; it's not going to spoil.

You can pickle pretty much anything... peppers, carrots, beans, onions, cauliflower, it's up to you! You can use this as a base and adjust accordingly. As I make them, they are pretty sour. If you want them less sour, you can use less vinegar, or use a different vinegar. You can also add sugar if you'd like! Full disclosure, I've only made beans, but it all works the same. The only thing is denser veggies (like carrots) might take longer unless you slice them thinly!

clean pint sized mason jar with tight fitting lid
few sprigs of fresh dill
3 large cloves of garlic, cut into 3-4 pieces per clove
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional! I prefer reds because they're hotter and also prettier and I keep all the seeds and stems, but you can adjust for how hot you want it to be)
1 lb green beans
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt

1. Place the dill at the bottom. Place most of the garlic and jalapeno slices on top of the dill. Keep a few extras to place on the side, this will make the jar look pretty, but it's optional. If you don't care how it looks, put everything at the bottom.
2. Trim the green beans to whatever size you prefer. I like them to be long, so I cut them to be just shorter than the jar, and then squish the small pieces around the edges, but some people might prefer to trim them all to the same size (1 inch? whatever!)
3. Place the beans on top of the herbs and spices. Arrange jalapenos and garlic around the sides if you are doing that.
4. Boil the water, vinegar, and salt.
5. Place the mason jar in the sink or somewhere that it's ok to spill. Pour the boiling vinegar water into the jar. Fill to the top, leaving a little space so you won't spill when you open it the first time. There will be too much liquid, but it's better to have too much than not enough!
6. Cap the jar and put it in your refrigerator. Leave it for at least a week before opening them, but this will last you months (but probably only minutes after you try the first one!) There are really tasty with Bloody Marys!

22 October 2010

Blueberry Lavender Pie

Last summer, I heard about a cake-versus-pie baking contest, and I knew I had to enter. This pie is what I came up with for the competition. Unfortunately, I didn't get to participate in the contest, but I still got to make (and eat!) this lovely blueberry lavender pie. And that makes us all winners.

To get the lavender flavor, I ground lavender flowers into the sugar using a food processor. This way you can add the flavor without adding any extra liquid, and without whole pieces of lavender to get stuck in your teeth. If you don't have a food processor, I guess you could try making a lavender syrup (basically, make simple syrup with lavender, then strain the flowers out), and then use some extra corn starch to compensate for the additional liquid. I don't know how that would turn out, but let me know if you try it!

One double-crust pie dough
6 cups of blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain the berries first)
1 cup of sugar
2-3 tablespoons of lavender flowers
3 tablespoons corn starch
zest and juice of one lemon or lime

In a food processor, combine the sugar and lavender until there are no big pieces of flowers in it. Toss it in a bowl with the blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice. Toss everything together, making sure it is evenly combined.

Roll out the bottom crust of your pie dough and place it a well-greased pie dish. Fill it up with your yummy blueberry filling. Top it off with the rest of your dough, and it's ready to bake!

If you want to do a lattice crust, which is pretty and sure to impress your friends, I recommend looking at these instructions from Smitten Kitchen. It's a lot easier than you'd think!

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the blueberry filling is all bubbly. Let the pie cool for 45 minutes or so before cutting into it. Enjoy!

Note: I made this pie twice - once with lemon, and once with lime. About half the people who tried both versions preferred the lemon, and half preferred the lime. I couldn't tell the difference, so I think they must be equally good!

17 October 2010

Vegetarian Gravy

I went to this brunch today and brought biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were good, but I'm going to tweak the recipe before posting it. But the gravy, I am very proud of this gravy! I made something like it about 6 months ago, but I didn't really remember exactly how I made it (and I winged it that time too), so I was worried as I tend to be that it wouldn't be good. But it was! It's very savory thanks to the mushrooms and even if you're used to meat gravy I don't think you'll miss it!

1 + 3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced into pieces about 1/4 inch
2 shallots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup of vermouth, white wine, veggie stock or water
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups veggie stock
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper

1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large pan over medium low heat. Saute shallots and mushrooms in the butter. As the mushrooms start to release their water, add the garlic, thyme and paprika. Keep stirring until the mushrooms are really soft. Scrape the mushrooms and shallots into a bowl.
2. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth and pour it into the bowl with the mushrooms.
3. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in the skillet. When it's melted, whisk the 3 Tbsp flour in. Cook the roux for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
4. Slowly whisk in the stock and then cream. Make sure all of the roux is mixed in!
5. Stir in the vegetables and the deglazed liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Cook the gravy until it thickens to desired consistency.
7. Serve with biscuits, mashed potatoes, eggs, or whatever else you like gravy with!