Pickled mustard greens

One of my favorite Szechuan dishes is a spicy stew of fermented mustard greens and fish. I have tried to recreate it at home using homemade sauerkraut and chilis, and it was good – but not the same.

Fresh local mustard greens inspired me to ferment my own, and I can’t wait to eventually try making the stew again (in maybe a month? I like my greens real sour).

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  • 3 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3-4 star anise pods
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 bird chilis or other hot chili to taste
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1.5 lbs fresh mustard greens, well washed (lots of grit!)

Boil all ingredients except mustard greens and cool brine back to room temperature. Pack glass canning jars with greens and fill with brine to cover greens. Evenly distribute the aromatics among the jars. Make sure all greens are below the brine level and set in a dark place to ferment for at least a week. Loosen the jar lid periodically to let gas escape. You can place in the fridge and let slow ferment for months- just be sure to keep releasing the pressure.

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Ugly-delicious: cod with sauerkraut and Szechuan pepper

I didn’t take the time to figure out how to make this meal look appealing, but I promise that, in person, the smell and taste more than made up for it. That said, I figured I should just call it like it is and name the dish ugly-delicious.

img-3046.jpgSzechuan-inspired cod with sauerkraut

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or other light-tasting oil)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sauerkraut
  • 2 tablespoons fermented black beans
  • 1-3 tablespoons chili paste or fresh chopped jalapenos or serranos
  • 1 tablespoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 lb cod, cut into large chunks

Sautee the onion, celery and garlic in the oil over medium-high until they begin to brown. Add the sauerkraut, beans, chili and peppercorns and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt, heat or sour (by adding sauerkraut juice or vinegar). Add the fish and cook until just opaque, turning very gently so as to not break up the filet.

I served the fish with basmati rice cooked with amaranth and some shredded greens.

 

Kimchi pancakes and caramelized delicata squash

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Kimchi makes me so happy. So so happy. These pancakes especially with their crispy, spicy, chewy, tangy, juicy-ness, are one of my favorite ways to have kimchi. You could sub in all sorts of ingredients here, and I’ll share suggestions below. (a previous post has the salad recipe)

Kimchi pancakes

  • 1 cup kimchi sliced thin
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup bay shrimp (could sub in other proteins like drained tofu, sauteed mushrooms, scallops or leave out completely. My kimchi is vegan and gluten-free, so I can easily accommodate dietary restrictions. Many store-bought brands of kimchi contain fish sauce or oysters and may have gochujang with can be made with wheat or barley paste both of which contain gluten – check it closely to be sure)
  • 1/2 cup flour (can use gf flour blend or rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and thin with a little kimchi liquid if needed. Heat oil on medium high in a large nonstick pan. Scoop about 1/4 cup mixture into the pan and flatten so ingredients are more or less in one layer. Let the pancake cook until it is golden brown and crispy, then flip and cook to crisp the other side, about 5-7 minutes total.

These can be served with or without an easy dipping sauce of equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a dash of toasted sesame oil and chili paste. You can use tamari if you are trying to keep this recipe gluten-free.

Caramelized delicata squash

  • 1 delicata squash, scrubbed clean, cut in half longways, seeds scraped and then sliced (skin on) into thin half moons
  • Oil and salt/pepper

Not really a recipe, but after you have cooked the kimchi pancakes, throw the squash into the same pan and cook for about 5 minutes per side until they are dark brown and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Cherry-ginger kombucha (aka fizzy, sweet and sour drink)

IMG_2741I have joined team kombucha. After drinking switchels for years, kombucha was easy to love – lightly fizzy, sweet and sour, interesting flavors, refreshing. As someone who doesn’t drink much alcohol, it has also been a welcome option for happy hours and potlucks. My main problem has been the price of it. At $3-$5 per 12-ounce bottle, it is often more expensive than beer.

Problem solved. My friend O gave me a “scoby” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and some simple instructions (use black tea, plain sugar, keep it out of the light) and off I went. This is my third gallon batch, cherry-ginger flavor this time. I won’t go into instructions here, because there are so many blogs that dedicate themselves just to home-brew kombucha, but I will encourage you to give it a try. It isn’t hard at all (mostly waiting) and the flavor combinations are endless!

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Jars of sunshine (aka preserved lemons)

I am totally hooked on preserved lemons, adding them to everything from salad dressing, jeweled rice, marinade, sardine salad, and dips of all sorts. They are super easy to make, just requiring a bit of patience. Luckily, bright lemon quarters packed with garlic and spices make a lovely decoration while you wait.

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First clean or sterilize a large glass jar (running through the dishwasher is fine). Scrub your lemons, peel and slice a few garlic cloves, and assemble some kosher salt, bay leaves, pepper corns, cloves, and pepper flakes. You can just use kosher salt, and these would still taste great, but the other spices are fun to try.

Coat the bottom of the jar with kosher salt. Cut a few lemons into quarters and press firmly into the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with some more kosher salt and add a bit of the spices and garlic. Continue layering in this way until the jar is nearly full. Juice the remainder of the lemons so that the lemon quarters are submerged. You may need to push down on the lemon quarters to really compact them. I will also drizzle a little olive oil over the top to further ensure that no lemons poke up into the air.

Next, wait. And wait. After about a month, the lemon rinds will become soft, the pulp will have a jelly like consistency, and the whole thing will smell tangy and funky and amazing. You can use the entire lemon, rind and all, to flavor all sorts of dishes.

Here are some lemons that have been hanging out in my cupboard for about 4 months.

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Coho Salmon Gravlax Handrolls

I love salty meats – cured or pickled or smoked. Gravlax is an easy do-at-home way to preserve fish and wow your friends. I made a big batch after our salmon haul last year in Washington and am still enjoying these bright orange jewels, pulled like treasure from the depths of my freezer.

This coho salmon gravlax was the recent star of a simple to make but fancy to look at supper of handrolls.

Coho Salmon Gravlax Handrolls

I sliced the gravlax thin and arranged it along with avocado, sushi rice, pickled ginger, sauerkraut (trust me, it works!), and wasabi. Small squares of nori serve as the base, and each person build their own little customized bite.

Gravlax
– 3lbs center cut salmon filet, skin on, pinbones removed (you want center cut so the filet is thick, but you can do it with whatever salmon you have, the thin part will just dry out to more like salmon jerky
– 1/4 cup vodka
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup kosher salt
– 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
– 1 tablespoon crushed peppercorns
– 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
– 1 bunch fresh dill, washed
– olive oil

Find a glass dish that is just slightly larger than the salmon filet. Pour the vodka over the fish in the dish and turn to coat. Leave it while you prep the rest.

Mix the sugar, salt, fennel, pepper, and coriander together. Drain the excess vodka off the fish and place 1/3 of the sugar/salt mixture under the salmon in the dish. Place the salmon skin side down back in the dish. Arrange the dill on the flesh side of the salmon and then cover with the remaining sugar/salt mixture. Cover tightly and place in the fridge for 2-3 days, depending on thickness of the fish. The fish will give off a lot of moisture and will take on a very firm texture. If the fish has taken on too much salt, you can soak it briefly in cold water to remove some of the salt. Just taste a bit (knowing that the edges will be the most salty part and knowing that gravlax should be a bit salty when done right) and soak for 10 minutes at at time until it has the right saltiness.

Remove the filet from the cure and rinse with cold water. Pat dry and place in a clean glass dish, drizzling with olive oil to coat generously. You can store the filet like this or sealed in a bag in the freezer. It is great on a bagel with cream cheese, or try the hand roll idea!

(Fake) Pink Pickled Onions

It’s the beginning of birthday season around my house, with my partner turning 4 decades old! To celebrate him, I am making his favorite cuisine – Mexican. We are hosting a taco bar party for several dozen folks, so I am making BIG batches of things: fermented jalapenos, hot sauce, giant shoulders of pork carnitas, and pink pickled onions as one of the garnishes.

I had sweet Texas onions on hand, but I wanted them to be pink (usually you start with red onions, so they provide their own dye). I added a sliced beet to the mix, and got a brilliant color.

Pink Pickled Onions

Here is the recipe for a smaller sized batch:

1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 red onion, thinly sliced (or a white onion with a slice of red beet!)

Mix all ingredients in a small non-reactive (basically not aluminum) sauce pan over low heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pack the sliced onion into a glass jar and pour the warm pickling liquid over, pushing down the onion to submerge. Allow the onions to pickle for a day or two, or for up to a month. They are beautiful on a salad, or roasted with green beans for a quick side. The pickling liquid makes a nice dressing.

Curried Yogurt Dip with Chia Seeds and Pickled Beet Relish

My cooking adventures are often inspired by others’ recipes or dishes I’ve eaten out and about. This recipe comes purely from my own head and the ingredients (or lack thereof) in my fridge. I had a party to attend and needed an hors d’oeuvres to bring. I wanted to make a dip, but had just about ¼ cup of greek yogurt left. I knew I could thin it with milk to make a softer texture, but I added too much milk and ended up with more of the texture of a lassi. I had used chia seeds to make sweet pudding in the past, and I thought why not thicken this dip with chia seeds? It worked, and it was really really good.

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– ½ cup plain greek yogurt
– ½ cup milk
– 1/3 cup chia seeds
– 1 teaspoon curry powder
– 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– Salt and pepper to taste
Pickled beets, shredded

Whisk yogurt and milk together until it is uniform in texture. Add the chia, curry, mustard, and lemon and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a pretty bowl with the pickled beets mounded in the middle. As people drag their chip or crudité through the dip, pretty pink swirls will form across the white yogurt. This was lovely with carrot, celery and cucumber slices, but extra good with kettle potato chips (shocking I know).

Black Garlic (in a rice cooker)

As you may know, I have a condiment fetish. Half my fridge is filled with condiments, more if you count fermented things like kimchi, sauerkraut and various olives, pickles and capers. The times I’d had black garlic (on squash tacos at El Chucho down the street), the caramelly funkiness of it always captured me. I tried buying it online, but it was so expensive, and reviewers complained of quality. With a huge bag of garlic bulbs staring at me from my kitchen counter, I thought I should just try my hand at making some. I’d fermented lots of things, why not garlic?

Turns out, black garlic isn’t fermented, it’s just caramelized, low and slow, for a few weeks. The interwebs abound with different “recipes,” but the consensus seems to be to keep the garlic whole, in its skin, in an enclosed space at around 140 F for between 2-4 weeks (some said 40 days, but I got great results in 2 weeks). Many suggest a rice cooker, and that’s just what I used. After 2 days of our whole house smelling (delicious but overwhelmingly) like garlic, I moved the rice cooker to the porch.

Two weeks later, I put on some gloves and unwrapped my black gold! I can’t wait to add this funky, mysterious sweetness to everything from hot sauce to fried eggs!

After 2 weeks, the black garlic was stinky and ready!
After 2 weeks, the black garlic was stinky and ready!

My black garlic set up on the roof deck. Rice cooker and jar with black garlic and olive oil.
My black garlic set up on the roof deck. Rice cooker and jar with black garlic and olive oil.
Black garlic awaiting its destiny in many yummy creations!
Black garlic awaiting its destiny in many yummy creations!

Rainbow Chard Stem Pickles

Rainbow chard was buy two get one free at the sweet little farm stand we visit on Saturdays. I knew I wanted to saute the leaves with some garlic and chili and a splash of white wine vinegar, but I wanted to do something different with the stems. I thought about just chopping them up and freezing them for a soup later in the year, but then I remembered a recipe for pickled chard stems from bon appetite.  We just finished off the last of a large batch of kimchi, so I was also in need of more pickled things in my fridge.

Rainbow chard stems. So pretty!
Rainbow chard stems. So pretty!

1 lb chard stems

1/4 cup kosher salt

4-5 garlic cloves, sliced thin

2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar

1 cup water

Trim the green leaves from the stem and rib of each leaf. Wash well to remove all the grit and toss with about 1/4 cup of kosher salt.  Let sit for an hour or so, rinse under cold water and drain.

Meanwhile, toast the mustard and caraway seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  The mustard seeds will start to pop.  Add the vinegar, sugar and water to the saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add the garlic slices. I also added a pinch of red chili flakes, but that is optional.

Pack the chard stems into a large glass jar so they fit snugly. I cut most of mine in half to make them fit into a large jam jar. Pour the brine over the stems to cover. Screw the lid on and then store in the fridge for a day or two until they are pickled to your liking. I am thinking these will be great garnishes for a cheese platter or a brunch bloody mary bar.

Rainbow chard stem pickles. I can't get over those colors!
Rainbow chard stem pickles. I can’t get over those colors!