Condiments


The flavor of the week is back! Introducing the second most prolific plant in my garden (next to weeds)…cucumber!

This was the healthiest plant of the three. Had to push it back from the stone walkway using tomato cages and a block of wood.

Moved the vine from the ground onto the brick wall so it won’t fall prey to the weed whacker again.

Spikes on some cultivars provide a formidable defense against hungry predators…unless you’re wearing gloves!

These cucumbers, called “Straight 8,” are ready to pick when they’re about 8″ long. They’re crisp and have big seeds, but are so fleshy that I just gouge the seeds out and still have plenty of cucumber left. I eat them with my fruit salads, with tofu soaked in shoyu and ginger, and pickled some in Korean gochujang hot sauce for a lazy kimchee recipe.

But one of my favorite ways to eat cucumber was introduced by my father-in-law a few years ago. He would make grilled chicken with this delicious, creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce. I had the hardest time pronouncing it but an easy time eating it! In addition to the incredibly creamy texture, the fresh garlic and lemon adds a delicious mouthwatering savoryness that can be eaten guilt-free: zero fat calories, low in sugar, and tons of protein!

I ate twice this much tzatziki, goes well with everything on my plate!

It’s another way to enjoy yogurt and a solution to getting  rid of all those extra cucumbers lying around. I just might have to let my in-laws give this a try…and maybe get zwei daumen nach oben!

Easy Tzatziki
serve with grilled chicken, raw veggies, raw zucchini noodles, or use as a veggie sandwich spread.

Ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cucumber
1 1/2 cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine garlic, salt, and dill. Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and zest. In another bowl or on a cutting board, using a box grater shred cucumber using large grater holes. Grabbing a handful of shredded cucumber, squeeze out excess liquid, reserving for later use (or drink it down!) Add squeezed & shredded cucumber to yogurt, stir to combine. Repeat with remaining shredded cucumber. Adjust seasonings to taste, store in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Makes about 2 cups.

Hi, folks! Sorry I wasn’t able to post on Friday, I was a little busy getting ready for my husband’s birthday dinner on Saturday. We had a small gathering, just my sister and her family, but it was nice to cook for “a lot of people” again! We has a frozen turkey from last Christmas, which would be more than enough for six people, so all I needed were a few easy side dishes and a dessert.

This is the first time I made a Thanksgiving dinner in July, and I gotta say I really enjoy cooking holiday meals! Even though the day was hot and running the oven and stove made it even hotter, the wonderful aromas that filled the kitchen made up for the heat of the afternoon sun. I already had dessert waiting in the fridge, the turkey was roasting nicely in the oven, green beans done, cranberries done, sweet potato casserole prepped and ready for the oven, and the stuffing is super fast to make (I really do love the box mixes.) The one thing left to make is the most time consuming and, next to the turkey, the most essential: giblet gravy.

The recipe is from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, first introduced to me by my Uncle Jimmy, who also loves to cook. It is my favorite gravy recipe and requires a lot of hands-on time–probably more than any other dish you’ll prepare for a Thanksgiving spread–but it is worth every step.

I love this magazine for the wonderful illustrations just as much as the recipes, product reviews and readers’ tips.

Since the giblets sink to the bottom, using a mini-cauldron (or bowl) and ladel is better than pouring from a gravy boat.

Giblet Pan Gravy – from Cook’s Illustrated magazine
makes about 2 quarts

1 tablespoon oil
reserved turkey neck, heart and gizzard (and liver, if you like)
1 onion, unpeeled and chopped medium
6 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
salt and pepper

1. Heat oi in large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add turkey neck, heart and gizzard (and liver, if you’re using) and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until juices are released, about 20 minutes. Add broth, water, and herbs. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, about 30 minutes. Strain broth (you should have about 8 cups–I ended up with 6!) reserving heart and gizzard (you can use the neck for soup or pick off the meat and use in stuffing.) When cooled, finely chop heart, gizzard, and liver and set aside.

2. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. When foam subsides whisk in flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nutty brown and fragrant, 10 minutes. Gradually and vigorously whisk in broth and wine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Set aside until turkey is done.

3. While turkey is resting on carving board, spoon out and discard as much fat as possible from roasting pan, then strain drippings into saucepan with gravy, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in reserved giblets, and simmer until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with turkey.

This recipe is also my contribution to Cookbook Sundays, sponsored by Couscous & Consciousness.

CookbookSundays

Here’s some pictures from our Birthday Thanksgiving in July dinner:

What are some of your favorite holiday meals to enjoy any time of year? Pumpkin pie? Colored eggs? Pepernoten? Ozoni?

I have an interesting story today, and maybe some of you can relate. The other morning I woke up to what I thought was a starling flying into our bedroom, hitting the window, then flying out. A couple seconds later the same thing happens: little creature flies in, hit the window, flies back out. Our cats weren’t around, probably waiting in the kitchen to be fed, otherwise they’d be waiting for that right moment to snatch it out of the air.

I walked out of the bedroom and saw a little creature on the floor at the end of the hall: a BAT! I looked up at the gaping hole in our ceiling so knew it had to come from somewhere. I had to keep this creature from flying away, so I took my shirt and threw it over the little bat. Though it didn’t fly away, it was able to crawl away, so I went looking for a container of some kind and found a plastic bin, emptied it, turned it over on the bat and trapped it that way. Then I went to put on another shirt.

Bats are so tiny, and this one (I read it was a “little brown bat”) is common across the US. Its wingspan would be the length of my forearm and it weighs only as much as a couple of chocolate chip cookies! Despite its small stature as well as its unusual cuteness, these brown bats have a LOT of tiny sharp teeth, perfect for catching and holding onto insects on the fly (pun intended.)

 

NOTE: Below are pictures of bats and I shrunk them down a bit, just in case you don’t like them. But if you do, you can click on them to see a bigger photo:

 

This bat would easily fit in the palm of your hand.

Such shiny, silky hair…what a contrast against it’s wrinkly hairless wings.

This being my first bat encounter, I called my sister up and asked her what I should do with it. She came over (her girls wanted to see it) and we took it to the upper slope of our property where the blueberries are struggling to grow. Wolfie, now having been fed breakfast, followed us in the hopes of chasing whatever it was that made all that scratching noises. My sister suggested to put it somewhere that it would be safe. With Wolfie being securely held back, I put it on a log with some big nooks and crannies for it to crawl into and sleep the day away. The only predators around here would be woodchucks and cats, so the bat had no worries about being attacked again.

And that’s the end of my bat story!

So, now that my story is done, I need to think of a way to segue into my Flavor of the Week recipe, but there’s nothing that comes to mind which can connect bats to oranges. Unless I was talking about a fruit bat, then maybe I would have an opening there.

Anyway, here is a super easy recipe that is extremely versatile, and you have the option of using orange or ginger, as well as agave or honey. I used it in my orange-shoyu sauce to make a nice glaze for chicken, use it as a topping for cake, in your tea, on peanut butter, or even on ribs like my friend Jan did with some ginger agave syrup (olive oil, lemon, syrup…yum!) Any way you have it, you will enjoy it.

The zest will taste like candied orange peel.

Orange Agave Syrup / Ginger Agave Syrup (inspired by veggienook.com)

4 oz light agave syrup or honey (for ginger syrup use dark amber agave)
zest from 1 orange (or 1/2″ piece fresh ginger, sliced thinly)

In a small saucepan combine agave or honey and zest or ginger. Bring to low simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in airtight glass jar.

Orange agave syrup. Compare this to the orange honey syrup below. See the difference?

Orange honey syrup is more cloudy than the orange agave syrup with tiny air bubbles stuck at the surface. The smell reminds me of flavored wheat beers.

Ginger agave syrup: great as a topping for carrot cake or your favorite barbecue ribs.

Has any of you had any “wild animal” encounters in your home? How did you handle it? (only happy endings, please!)

There are 18 glass jars of spices sitting on a rack next to my stove, plus another two and a half dozen mismatched bottles I keep with my baking ingredients, and about a half dozen plastic baggies of herbs and spices tucked away in the cabinet. On a weekly basis I use only a handful of these spices and the rest are individual ingredients, when combined, make one of the most fragrant blends on the face of the earth: curry seasoning!

We grew up eating a curry that my mom would make with huge chunks of beef, potatoes, and McCormick curry spice. I have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite dish as a kid, but as I grew older I found out there were other kinds of curries besides the one we had at home, and in more colors (and flavors) than green!

There’s Japanese curry, a rich brown gravy that uses beef stock and tastes great with udon (thick rice noodles) or on top of steamed rice. There are the coconut-based Thai curry dishes in red (hot,) green (hot) and, my favorite, yellow (not as hot.) And there are the various herbs and spices that make up Indian curry seasoning (take a whiff, it’s just like aromatherapy!)

A popular and tasty Japanese curry, S&B (image source: http://www.foodpakexpress.com)

My favorite Thai curry, but I cannot find it around here: Mae Ploy yellow curry paste (image source: http://www.amazon.com)

Curry seasoning is so versatile, you can use it in anything from omelets to burgers. Making your own dry seasoning blend isn’t as difficult as it seems, but you will need about ten different herbs and spices, as well as a coffee grinder. Once you make your own curry seasoning, you will find it difficult to go back to the pre-ground, prepackaged blends from the grocery store. And with your ready supply of spices you’ll be able to try new kinds of blends, and maybe even make your own authentic recipe! Check out www.myspicesage.com for a complete selection of seasonings, teas, freebies, recipes, and great prices on spices.

Here’s what we had for dinner: turkey bean burgers! I added a tablespoon of Indian curry powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt to the mix, plenty of flavor packed into these tasty little sliders:

Spice up your sliders with a spoonful of curry seasoning

In addition to the burgers, I also spiced up the burger topping, which can also be a side dish, sandwich filling, or topped with chopped tomato and wrapped in lettuce leaves for an easy meal on the go!

Below is the recipe for the quinoa-sweet potato topping. The quinoa and sweet potato were already cooked so throwing this together is super fast and easy. Got extra sweet potatoes? Try my sweet potato haupia pie recipe, it’s gluten-free and delicious!

Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Indian Curry Seasoning

Ingredients:

1 roasted sweet potato (poke potato w/fork all around, then bake in 400 degree preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. Cool, peel off skin and use the mushy insides.)
1 teaspoon Indian seasoning, such as Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa

Directions:

Mash sweet potato with seasoning and salt, stirring well. Add quinoa, adjusting amount to your liking. Serve as a burger topping, salad topping, sandwich filling, or top with chopped tomato and wrap in lettuce leaves. Enjoy!

Top with chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs for a quick and easy vegan dish.

So what’s YOUR favorite curry dish? Do you prefer it home made or at a restaurant? Do you eat it with rice? Potatoes? Roti? Share your curry experiences here, I’d love to hear from you!

Several weeks ago I got a care package from my parents. In addition to mom’s delicious cookies, Uncle Kenneth’s coffee and some nori rice crackers, I had a special request for these home grown beauties:

Mom and Dad’s vanilla

Gorgeous, plump pods of flavor-packed vanilla! My parents have several vanilla plants growing outside the house. They’re orchid plants, and are not easy to cultivate because they require self-pollination from a specific type of insect. To make it even more difficult, the flowers bloom for only one day, making the window of opportunity rather small for natural reproduction. My dad keeps an eye out for blooming buds, so when the opportunity arises, he uses a ball-point pen to transport the microscopic pollen from stamen to pistil, then lets nature take care of the rest.  Here’s the ripening fruit of the plant several days after pollination, the dried blossoms are shriveled and ready to fall off the ends:

Vanilla plant, image source: http://www.orchidsasia.com/vanil16.htm.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? And after several months of staying on the vine, they are ready to be harvested, dried, and used in your culinary delights.

Everybody is familiar with the distinct taste of vanilla, which is often second-banana to chocolate (did you know that both were cultivated by the Aztecs?)  and we often take this rather nondescript flavor for granted. But vanilla is a truly wonderful spice that not only gives its own easily recognizable flavor, but enhances others, including chocolate.

Chocolate just wouldn’t be chocolate without vanilla.

So how about adding some vanilla to your life? Let’s start of with the basics:

Vanilla Bean Syrup – Bring 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add 1 split vanilla bean, scraping both pod and seeds into mixture, stir and let cool. Reserve the vanilla pod and dry completely before storing for other uses. Pour into clean glass jar, keep tightly closed and let sit one day before using.

Vanilla Bean Paste – Scrape a vanilla bean and mix just enough light corn syrup to make a paste. Can use in place of vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract – In a jar or bottle, add 2 cups of vodka and 6 vanilla beans. Store in a cool, dark place and let age for 4-6 months, shaking the bottle once a week to distribute the flavors.

Vanilla Sugar – Place a split pod in your sugar container for a delicate fragrance and hint of vanilla flavor.

Beautiful glistening seeds from a Tahitian vanilla pod.

Now that you have the basics, here are some recipes to use your newly made concoctions:

Vanilla Cream Soda – Mix vanilla bean syrup with cold seltzer and add a couple drops of lemon juice.

Panna Cotta (from epicurious.com)In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 envelope (1 teaspoon) gelatin over 2 tablespoons water, let soften for about ten minutes. Menwhile, in a medium saucepan bring 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Split a 2″ piece vanilla pod, scraping seeds and adding into milk mixture (alternatively, add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.) Divide between four ramekins, chill 8 hours or overnight. (options: float 1 star anise in each ramekin, serve with fresh mixed berries, or top with fruit compote.)

Spiced Vanilla Peach Jam – This was an accident when I tried making Rem Cooks’ Vanilla Peach Butter by following his recipe for Spiced Peach Preserves. As I was heating the peaches I thought, “Boy this smells great…but where’s the vanilla?” Looking over his post, I realized it was the wrong recipe! After pulling up the correct recipe I decided it would be easier to make a few modifications and simply add the vanilla bean. It still came out tasty, especially by following his lead and having it with cream cheese on sourdough toast…delicious!

Ingredients:

2 cups peaches peeled, pitted & roughly chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
tiny pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
4″ piece vanilla bean, split and scraped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions:

Put everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 minutes or until peaches break up into smaller pieces. Remove from heat and let cool before transferring to a clean glass jar. Will keep in refrigerator for about 10 days.

This peach jam is great on toast, or as a glaze for chicken, ham, or roast pork loin.

In addition to all this sweetness, vanilla can also be used to enhance the flavor of savory dishes, and on Wednesday I will post a special recipe I concocted to celebrate my second wedding anniversary! Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m talking about:

Vanilla can season even the most savory of dishes!

More vanilla goodness coming your way, so stay tuned!

Last week I posted a recipe for radler, a refreshing lemonade-beer concoction perfect for enjoying on a beautiful sunny barbecuey day. I was about to make more ginger lemonade and decided to zest them before I cut them in half. Normally I would use the juiced lemon halves when washing dishes (it helps cut grease, I “wipe” my soapy pans with them) but today, in addition to saving the halves for dishwashing duty, I zested six lemons and added a cup of sugar to make a wonderfully fragrant lemon sugar:

The oils from the lemon distribute throughout the sugar, so to help reduce any excess moisture I put it in a large frying pan and heated it on low for about 5 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. It will stay a bit clumpy because of the oils, so just let it cool down before storing it in an airtight jar and use within a few days.

You can use this sugar in any of your baked goods, tea, or wherever you want a bit of lemony sweetness. Here’s an easy recipe where lemon and coconut are combined to make a light, lemony macaroon. I adapted the recipe from one my sister gave me by replacing wheat flour with coconut flour and adding lemon juice. The macaroons came out nice and chewy with a light lemon flavor and lots of coconut throughout.

Gluten free, dairy free Coconut Lemon Macaroons

Coconut Lemon Macaroons (gluten-free)
Adapted from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/First-Place-Coconut-Macaroons

Ingredients

1-1/3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup lemon sugar
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, flour and salt. Stir in egg whites and vanilla; mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Thanks for checking out my first “Flavor of the Week” post! Come back every Monday to see a new featured flavor at: https://thefoodery.wordpress.com/flavor-of-the-week/.

Rich, slightly smoky, tangy barbecue sauce. Great on beans, too!

The other night I really wanted some barbecue ribs. Back home, my Uncle Paul would make these huge, Flintstone-style ribs on the grill with a few simple seasonings and it always came out perfect. It was tasty stuff and, as a kid, gnawing on those huge bones was a lot of fun!

Since there was no chance I would be eating any of my uncle’s barbecue ribs anytime soon, I still had a craving, and more specifically, for that one thing he rarely put on his own ribs: barbecue sauce! I tried a recipe for “St. Louis Style Barbecue Sauce,” but it was way too sweet for my taste and was missing that umami flavor. So I improvised and made up my own recipe (below.)

While the sauce was simmering,  I made a quick batch of wheat-free corn bread muffins (Blood Type Diet A recipe from Cook Right 4 Your Type.) The scant 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour make it taste less like a traditional corn muffin so next time no buckwheat. Two chicken breasts were cut in half lengthwise, seasoned with a bit of salt and red pepper flakes, then pan-fried in unsalted butter. I still had some cooked beans from when I made turkey bean burgers the other night so served that on the side topped with barbecue sauce. Everything tasted much better than I thought, and I was surprised at how fast I ate everything on my plate! Maybe I was craving ribs, but the chicken and barbecue sauce were more than satisfying for tonight’s dinner.

And who knows, maybe my uncle might like it. :)

 

Jenny’s Tangy Barbecue Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups 

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine (I just used a table wine, but something dry would be good)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamari
1/2 onion, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried onion)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried garlic)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put everything in a pot, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. Turn off heat and taste. If too sweet, stir in 1 tablespoon mustard. If too vinegary, add 1 teaspoon more sugar. Use as a baste or topping.

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