Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

March 10, 2013

March potluck this weekend.  Since potluck was Friday night and I had a feeling that work might get a little hairy I signed up to make salad.  I made it as easy as possible without completely bailing on making something.  I make most of my salad dressings from scratch and I decided that counted as “making something.”

The main dish for potluck this month was a pasta dish so I did a green salad with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives.  That’s a lot of briny goodness so I needed a dressing with something sweet to balance it out.  This is a good one.  The honey and lemon come out really nicely.  The zesty is a little more subtle.  If you want more zest just add more dijon.  I left out the fresh parsley because I didn’t have any.  Probably a nice addition, but not critical.  I made it with the immersion blender because I’m too lazy to whisk enough to get a good emulsion.  Most of the time when I whisk by hand the dressing separates and has to be shaken before serving.  If I use the stick blender I don’t have that issue.  A regular blender will do too.

Not much else to say about this one.  It’s a keeper.  I’ll be using it throughout the Spring on early vegetables and greens.  Yum!

Good? Good.
Easy? Easy.
Good for company? Sure.
Special shopping? Nope.

Zesty Honey-Lemon Dressing

Ingredients

3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

Blend all ingredients until completely combined. Keeps up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Homemade Pasta

January 21, 2013

Next weekend is the Third Annual No Football Sunday Dinner.  I’ll explain that next weekend, but in short, it means that there are 10 people coming to my house for dinner so I need to start early on the planning and cooking.  The theme is Italian food this year so I spent today making pasta.  It’s kind of like playing in play-doh and way easier than making bread or pie crust.  I used to have a hand crank to flatten and cut the dough.  This was the debut of the pasta attachments for the KitchenAid.  Good stuff.

Pasta

There’s not much in the way of ingredients for pasta.  Essentially you’ve got a 2:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour.  That’s it.  No salt, no oil, nothing.  You beat the eggs and put them in the middle of a pile a flour.  Use your hands to mix it up.  That part’s a mess.  Very sticky.  You mix in the flour a little at a time until it stops being sticky.  According to Marcella Hazan, from whom I will take any and all advice regarding Italian food, it’s the kneading and stretching that count.  She recommends that you knead the ball of pasta dough a full 8 minutes.  Gotta tell you that’s a really long time, but it’s kind of a Zen thing once you get into it.  At the end you have a beautiful, gold, perfectly smooth and silky ball of pasta dough.

When you’re ready to roll it out I really recommend a pasta crank, manual or on your mixer.  You can do it with a rolling pin, but you have to have mad skills.  You need the dough to be completely uniform.  You have flatten the dough a little at a time.  Again, according to Ms. Hazan, the rolling by degrees step (several passes on each thickness setting) is key to producing good pasta and it’s the step that is often skipped in commercially produced pasta.  I’m counting on that step being the difference between just passable pasta and really good pasta.  It certainly is the difference between pasta that takes 30 minutes to make and pasta you spend a whole afternoon on.

The good news about this is that once you’ve spent a whole afternoon on pasta making you don’t have to feel compelled to eat it all at once.  It dries perfectly well and can be stored for a few weeks.  Use an airtight container and store it in the cabinet.  I’m counting on this being a winning strategy also since the big dinner is still 6 days away.  I could have made my life easier if I’d remembered to twirl the freshly cut pasta into little nests, but I didn’t.  I’m going to have to store this in a long container or I’m going to have to break it up.  The pasta has to dry 24 hours so I can figure that out tomorrow. 

Good?  We’ll see.
Easy? Not at all.
Good for company? I can’t see why else you’d go to so much trouble.
Special shopping? Definitely not.

Homemade Pasta

Ingredients

4 eggs
2 C all-purpose flour, plus some as needed

Directions

Beat the eggs with a fork until well blended.
Make a well in the middle of the flour.
Pour the eggs into the well. Add flour into the eggs a little at a time.
Mix with a fork until the eggs aren’t runny.
Mix flour in a little at a time with your fingers, forming a dough.
Add flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky.
Form a ball.
Knead for 8 minutes, or as long as it takes to make a silky smooth dough.
Cut the finished dough into 6-8 pieces.
Flatten the dough with a pasta press, beginning on the widest setting and rolling progressively thinner until you reach the desired thickness.
Roll at each level 2-3 times, folding the dough into thirds each time.
Cut the dough into ribbons and lay flat to dry.
Dry 24 hours if you plan to store it.

Cranberry Sauce

December 9, 2012

Ok, so I’m a little late on the Cranberry Sauce.  Fresh cranberries are all over the place so I keep looking for ways to use them.  Yesterday I found a recipe for an Autumn Cranberry Beef Stew.  It called for whole berry cranberry sauce so I decided to make my own.  Good call.

This is an Alton Brown recipe. You may have noticed that you don’t see a lot of those on here. I just find him annoying. And yes, that does influence the recipe choices I make. But I wanted to give this a shot because it’s sweetened with honey instead of sugar. That means my nephew could have some if he wanted. So, you may be seeing this again at Christmas. Well, you won’t, but my family might.

Cranberry Sauce

This is good stuff.  And wicked easy.  Just berries, fruit juice and honey.  They key, if you want it to set up like regular cranberry sauce, is to follow the directions.  Think of it like candy making, only easier.  You make the syrup, add the berries and wait for the magic to happen.  Cranberries have enough pectin in them that if you do it right they’ll gel on their own.  Just be sure you don’t overcook it.  If you do the pectin breaks down and the sauce won’t set up.  It’ll still taste good so don’t throw it out, but if you want to be able to slice it be sure you watch the clock.

Not much else to say except that this is better than any cranberry sauce you’ll buy.  Of course it won’t have those ridges on the side of the cranberry sauce like the log that comes out of the can.  If that’s important to you just put it in a can to set up!

Good? You bet.
Easy? Much easier than I thought.
Good for company? Sure. Or just to keep around. Or for gifts.
Special shopping? Fresh cranberries are only available for a short while so just be sure the mood to make it strikes you at the right time.

Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups

Directions

Wash the cranberries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones.

Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Cranberry Curd

November 25, 2012

It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving and many of you are probably very tired of being in the kitchen.  I spent the holiday week in the Caribbean so spending a little kitchen time was welcome on such a cold day.  Turns out that canning is much less problematic when it’s 35 degrees outside than when it’s 95 degrees outside.  It’s kind of nice to have a warm steamy kitchen in November.  Lucky for me that a recent Cooking Light magazine included a recipe for Cranberry Curd, a nice twist on the traditional Lemon Curd.

The cranberry curd is in the small jars in the front.  The other jars are the mixed berry jam I also made today.  And in the way back are the peppers I’m drying to grind and use all year.  It’s a little bit “Little House” around here today.

Making curd falls pretty squarely in the ‘intermediate’ category of difficulty, maybe even toward the high end.  It has a number of steps and a fair lot of dishes too.  My kitchen was a pretty big disaster when I was done.  I have no experience with this kind of thing so I limited the recipe adjustments to one.  I left out the Grand Marnier because I didn’t have any.  I added just a touch extra lemon juice for the added liquid. 

So here’s the basic idea.  You cook down some cranberries in lemon juice; puree them in a food processor; and mash them through a sieve.  On the side you make this custard kind of stuff with butter, sugar, eggs and corn starch.  Cook it all in a double boiler.  Then begins the canning process.  Hot curd into hot jars into a hot water bath.  Twenty minutes later – voila! – you have shelf ready cranberry curd. 

I don’t have a lot of tips to offer except to follow the instructions.  Mashing the berries through a sieve is messy and a giant pain.  I was too lazy to get out my food mill, but I don’t know that it would have saved me much time or effort.  Maybe.  In any case you have to do it.  You’ll be tempted to skip that step because the pureed berries look pretty smooth when they come out of the food processor.  They aren’t.  You’ll be surprised how much peel you end up throwing in the trash.  You may also be tempted to skip some of the mixing between egg additions.  Don’t.  In order for the curd to be creamy and to thicken properly you need to beat the curd after each addition.  And be sure to stir frequently as it cooks.  You don’t want it to burn or get grainy from being ignored.  One tip about the double boiler.  If you don’t have one, no big deal.  Use a pot with a little water and a heat resistant bowl.  Regardless be sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

I decided to can this in a hot water bath canner.  That way folks can store it on the shelf until they open it.  For you canners out there you need 1/2 inch of headspace in the jars and they process for 20 minutes.  If you don’t can, or just don’t feel like it, you can freeze it.  I recommend using Ball’s freezer safe jars for that.  Of course if you just want to use it up you can store it in the fridge for a week or so.  Cover the top in a little plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

I’m pretty impressed with my first batch of curd.  It’s thick and smooth and creamy just like it’s supposed to be.  It has a sweet/tart thing going on, so that’s good.  The cranberry adds a nice red color that’s very holiday festive.  Since most of this will be holiday gifts that works out well.  It’s not as red as the picture in the magazine, but maybe their cranberries were darker than mine.  If the color bothers you add just a touch of red food coloring.  That shouldn’t hurt anything.

What does one do with curd?  The magazine recommends adding it to yogurt or oatmeal.  I think traditionally it’s served with crumpets or scones at tea time.  You can also use it between cake layers or as a cupcake or cookie filling.  Make tarlets.  Serve it over ice cream.  This is really versatile stuff so if you decide to make it make a whole bunch.  I doubled the recipe you see below and still have the ingredients to make another double batch on another day.  I hope folks like it in their Christmas baskets!

Good? Good.
Easy? Not even.
Good for company? Absolutely. A lovely gift.
Special shopping? Nope. Just remember you can only get fresh cranberries in most places at certain times of the year.

Cranberry Curd

Ingredients

1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop. Place cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Strain cranberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

2. Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt. Place mixture in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160° and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.

Fresh Salsa Verde

September 30, 2012

Whew, happy to be home from some business travel!  And ready to put the garden to bed for the year. Of course that means that while I was away the garden was busy starting over, kind of.  Bunches of green tomatoes on the vine; a few bush beans; and more peppers than I know what to do with.  I took out the tomatoes, beans and squash yesterday.  I’m going to give the peppers another week to finish what they’ve started.  So, that left me with lots of green tomatoes to deal with – but not enough to bother with the whole canning thing.  Salsa verde it is.

Normally salsa verde is made with tomatillos, but I’ve found that really green tomatoes work just as well.  It’s a great use for the tomatoes left on the vine at the end of the season.  The small ones are best because they have fewer seeds and other tomato gunk.  I had a few dozen green Juliet tomatoes that worked great.  The great thing about these is that they don’t have to be husked, cored, peeled or anything.  I quarter them and throw them in the food processor.  Add some garlic, cilantro, jalapenos and salt; pulse a few times; and you’re done.  Couldn’t be easier.

It turns out a little briny; a little crunchy; a little sharp; and a beautiful bright green.  It’s perfect for a lot of things.  Feel free to eat it as is with chips.  I used 2 cups or so – half in white turkey chili and half as garnish – tonight for football watching.  I ended up with 6 half pint jars to spare and share.  Yum.  I’ll be using one of my jars with chicken or fish later this week I’m sure.  Try it with enchiladas too!

I put the leftovers in jars, but feel free to put some in freezer bags and lay them out flat for freezing.  It will keep for months and be easy to store that way.  This recipe is completely scaleable to feel free to make as little or as much as you like at one time.

Good? So good.  Maybe better because the tomatoes and peppers came from my own garden.
Easy? So easy. A knife and a food processor. That’s it.
Good for company? Sure, make extra for sharing!
Special shopping? Definitely not. Absolutely use tomatillos if you don’t have green tomatoes.

Fresh Salsa Verde

Ingredients

3 lbs small green tomatoes, quartered
6 cloves garlic
4 jalapenos, seeded and rough chopped (use more or fewer to adjust the heat level)
2/3 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chopped
salt to taste

Directions

Put everything in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are chopped fine. Add a little water if needed.

Homemade Ricotta (on Homemade Pizza)

May 26, 2012

It’s official, I’m no longer impressed by restaurants that make their own ricotta cheese.  It’s so easy!  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I was intimidated – sure that it wasn’t as easy as the recipe suggests.  Wow, did I waste a lot of time.  In about 30 minutes I had made ricotta and cleaned the kitchen from some other cooking.  The is heads and shoulders above what you can buy in a tub at the grocery store.  I may never buy ricotta again.

Mostly you just dump milk and buttermilk in a pot and let it do its thing.  Maybe after some practice you don’t need the candy thermometer, but definitely use it when you’re starting out.  I used Homestead Creamery 2% milk and Kroger low fat buttermilk.  And I didn’t bother with cheesecloth I just used a clean, lint-free kitchen towel.  I have a collection of linen kitchen towels that are perfect for this kind of thing. I’m a complete novice at this so I have little advice.  I would say that you should be careful about draining the liquid.  Don’t squeeze the bundle.  You don’t want your ricotta to be dry.

Ricotta has a seemingly neutral flavor, but the creamy texture you get with this makes it well worth the little bit of effort.  And you can mix anything you like into it:  herbs, parmesan, salt and pepper, whatever.  I used mine, plain, on pizza.  Maybe it’s just that it’s been a long while since I’ve had pizza, but this was just shy of perfect.

I used Kroger fresh pizza crust from the deli section.  I hate making pizza crust so this was a good substitute.  It’s MUCH better than the crust you get in a can.  My only complaint is that I didn’t roll it thin enough.  I like my pizza crust cracker thin and this was a little too doughy for me.  Totally my fault.  I used a little fresh mozzarella, a little of the ricotta and some of the world’s most fabulous sausage.  Kudos yet again to SausageCraft.  My selection today was a very simple pork sausage with garlic, salt and pepper – that’s it.  It’s called San Miniato after the Tuscan village by the same name.  It’s 18 different kinds of yummy.  This is one of those cases where the food is so simple that the ingredients really matter.  Good dough, good cheese, good sausage.  I threw in some of the dried basil and dried parsley from my herb garden just to add a hint of green.  Seriously good stuff, folks.

If you have any interest in ricotta at all you should give this a try.  It’s really easy.  You can do other kitchen things while it’s cooking (chopping, dishes, sauteing vegetables, whatever).  I’d say it’s pretty much foolproof as long as you follow the directions.  I made a half recipe – partly because I wasn’t convinced it would turn out and partly because I didn’t want to have volumes of it. I ended up with just shy of 16 ounces.  The recipe says that the ricotta is good in the fridge for about four days so I’d better get cracking coming up with ways to use it.  Or maybe I’ll find some friends who’d like to have a little.  Either way I can’t bear to think about throwing it out so I’ll definitely find a good home for it!

Good? Oh, so good.
Easy? Oh, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely. Impressive, n’est pas?
Special shopping? Nope.

Homemade Ricotta

Ingredients

1 gallon 2% reduced-fat milk
5 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preparation

Line a large colander or sieve with 5 layers of dampened cheesecloth, allowing the cheesecloth to extend over outside edges of colander; place colander in a large bowl.

Combine milk and buttermilk in a large, heavy stockpot. Attach a candy thermometer to edge of pan so that thermometer extends at least 2 inches into milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat until candy thermometer registers 170° (about 20 minutes), gently stirring occasionally. As soon as milk mixture reaches 170°, stop stirring (whey and curds will begin separating at this point). Continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 190°. (Be sure not to stir, or curds that have formed will break apart.) Immediately remove pan from heat. (Bottom of pan may be slightly scorched.)

Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon curds into cheesecloth-lined colander; discard whey, or reserve it for another use. Drain over bowl for 5 minutes. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Hang cheesecloth bundle from kitchen faucet; drain 15 minutes or until whey stops dripping. Scrape ricotta into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt; toss gently with a fork to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Note: Store in refrigerator up to 4 days.

The Second Annual “No Football Sunday Dinner”

February 11, 2012

It’s that time again folks.  The football season is over so we all have our Sunday afternoons back for a while.  To help ease the transition I’ve started the tradition of the “No Football Sunday Dinner.”  This year it’s a Caribbean themed meal with a Southern dessert.  Plenty of good friends and plenty of wine.

Here’s the meal plan for this year:

  • Pork Shoulder Pernil with Cilantro-Citrus Adobo
  • Mashed Plantains (Mangu)
  • Cuban Black Beans and Rice
  • Brazilian Collards
  • Romaine Salad with Hearts of Palm and Oranges
  • Mom’s Rolls
  • Coca Cola Cake with Chocolate Ganache

It’s a pretty ambitious menu, but what’s life without a challenge?  The only way to serve this kind of menu to 13 people in your home is to be super organized.  At least that’s the only way it works for me.  Today I cleaned the house, set the tables, set up the bar, made the cake, chopped the collards, chopped the onions for the salad and the plantains and put the black beans and sofrito in the crock pot.  I think that’s everything I could reasonably do ahead of time.  And frankly, I’ve run out of steam for today.

The key to prep work is to do everything in the most efficient order.   Do things that can cook unattended first and then let them cook while you do other things.  Do your chopping and measuring ahead of time as much as possible so that on party day you just have to put things together.  Make sure you leave the kitchen clean before you go to bed.  Seriously, you’ll thank yourself for the extra effort when you get back in the kitchen to do your real cooking the next day.

So, how do you organize yourself on party day?  One of the hardest things about throwing a dinner party is getting all the food ready at about the same time so that nothing overcooks or gets cold waiting on something else.  I have a friend who keeps a list for timing purposes.  He starts with the time he needs everything done and works his way backwards so he’ll know when each item needs to be started.  It’s a good system.  I do basically the same thing, but I keep it in my head.  I’m apt to lose a list that I write down.  After you’ve done this a few times you’ll know that you have to start the rolls first and that the whipped cream bowl needs to go in the fridge before you start whipping the cream.  You can put a salad together early as long as you leave any wet ingredients to the last minute.  You can dress the salad while the meat is resting.  Soon enough you’ll work out a system that fits your style and your kitchen.

In the end remember that your friends are there to hang out with you.  If the meal goes horribly awry there’s almost always a pizza place that delivers!

 

Collard Green Olive Pesto

February 5, 2012

This is one for those of you who don’t like pesto because the flavor is too strong and for those of you who don’t like collards because the taste is too bitter.  This recipe mellows them both into a wonderful, creamy pesto.  And for those of you who avoid pesto because of a pinenut allergy (or an allergy to the cost of pinenuts!), this is for you too.  No pine nuts at all.  Really worth checking out!

Boiling the collards for 15 minutes takes the bitterness out and leaves the bright green color in.  The recipe says to boil and drain the collards first and chop them later.  I recommend the reverse.  Collards are much easier to chop raw and you’re taking the stems out anyway so you might was well chop as you go.  No need to boil in batches though.  Just get a big pot and do them all at once.  The original epicurious.com recipe calls for brine-cured green olives. I had pimento stuffed green olives brined in vermouth.  Close enough.  I saw in the comments that most people left out the water.  When I mixed up all the other ingredients it seemed a little thick to me, but I didn’t want to dilute the flavor, which was already a little mild.  I decided to use the olive brine to punch up the flavor and smooth out the texture.  Perfect.

This is wicked good stuff.  My guess is that it will be terrific on whole wheat pasta.  The nutty flavor of the pasta will be a nice balance to the salty pesto.  I also plan to mix it into cream cheese and serve it with crackers.  And maybe mixed into roasted tomatoes for a completely different kind of pasta sauce.  It holds its pretty green color better than the basil pestos I’ve made so I think it will look nice whenever I get around to serving it.  Right now it’s in the freezer.  Half the batch in a Ziploc bag for when I need a lot and half in an ice cube tray for when I just need a little.

So that’s one ingredient down in my quest to use up the stuff in the fridge.  And an excellent use indeed.

Good? Good in its just made form.  Hoping its just as good when I have it for dinner!
Easy? Sure. Just a food processor.
Good for company? We’ll see!
Special shopping? Nope.

Collard Green Olive Pesto

Ingredients

1 3/4 lb collard greens
10-12 large pimento stuffed green olives2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/8 cup olive brine
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Directions

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut stems and center ribs from collard greens and discard. Coarsely chop collards. Stir collards into water in batches, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer collards with tongs to a colander to drain, gently pressing on greens to extract excess water. (If making pasta, reserve water in pot for cooking pasta.)

Blend olives and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add collards, water, vinegar, salt, cayenne, and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. Add cheese and pulse to combine. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream.

Freeze any pesto you won’t be using in 3-4 days.

Pimiento Cheese

August 17, 2011

Yep, you can make it from scratch.  Mostly I find that the stuff you get in the store is goopy.  It has too much mayonnaise.  And usually it’s some kind of processed cheese.  Honestly, I’ve never made it myself.  In fact, I didn’t even eat it until recent years.  I always lumped it in with things like olive loaf and Spam.  Eeewww.  And then I discovered at a family reunion that my Aunt Nina, baker of the most amazing pound cake in the world, makes the most wonderful pimiento cheese.  No idea what she puts in it.  I didn’t have a chance to ask before I made this.  I have book club tonight and this is what I’m taking.

Apparently pimiento cheese is a Southern thing.  I didn’t know that because I’ve lived in the South all my life.  Check it out on NPR if you like. (Pimento Cheese:  It’s a Southern Thing).  Just so you know, a pimiento (or pimento) pepper is a very mild, sweet red pepper.  The ones you use in this lovely cheese mixture are pickled.  Mostly you find them pickled, diced and packed in tiny jars.  As far as a recipe for pimiento cheese, there are as many recipes as there are folks who make it.  Most folks probably haven’t bothered to pay much attention to how they make it, much less write it down.  I’m guessing the best recipes for this yummy stuff can be found in church cookbooks.  Some folks add garlic.  Some folks add jalapenos.  Some folks use pimiento stuffed olives instead of plain pimientos.  The only requirements are cheese, Duke’s and pimientos.  Then go a little crazy if you like.

I pretty much only eat pimiento cheese as itself.  Choose a delivery mechanism – bread, crackers, celery, pepper slices, etc. – and enjoy!  But I did take a quick look to see what kinds of recipes are out there that give this lovely concoction a little more versatility.  There’s not a lot out there, but I am intrigued by a variety of macaroni and cheese that uses pimiento cheese.  I can also attest that it makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.  I think what we’ve established here is that this is not a high brow food, but it adds a little something extra to your standard cheese dishes.

When I started thinking about making pimiento cheese somehow my brain got stuck on cheese straws.  When you make cheese straws you whip the butter and cheese until it becomes this smooth, creamy, fluffy consistency.  I decided that a beginning like that would be terrific for holding together pimento cheese as well.  I used Duke’s instead of butter of course and the extra sharp white cheddar.  There wasn’t quite enough liquid so I used the liquid from the pimiento jar.  Perfect.  Whipping the cheese with the mayonnaise let’s you use a little less mayo and adds a lot of flavor to the whole mixture I think.  My secret ingredients, less secret now, are smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.  Just a little of each adds a lot of dimension to the flavor.

I like my pimiento cheese to be a little spreadable so I grated the yellow cheddar with a standard box grater.  That way it’s still substantial enough that you get kind of a rough texture, but it wouldn’t tear the bread.  You can put it all in the food processor and whip it together if you want to pipe it onto crackers or cucmber slices for something a little fancier.  Or if you like it a little chunky chop all the cheese with a knife.  Just add a little mayonnaise at a time.  It won’t take as much as you think.  And don’t add any salt until you’ve got the pimientos in there.  You may not need to add any salt at all after that.

Good? Comfort. Food.
Easy? The easiest.
Good for company? It’s a particular taste, so ask first.
Special shopping? No way.

Pimiento Cheese

Ingredients

1 16 oz block sharp yellow cheddar
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar
1 small jar diced pimientos (4 oz)
1/4 C or more Duke’s mayonnaise
1 t smoked paprika
dash of cayenne

Directions

Set white cheddar out to come to room temperature. Put white cheddar, 3-4 T mayonnaise and liquid from the pimiento jar in food processor. Process until smooth and fluffy. Grate entire block of yellow cheddar using largest holes on a box grater.
In a large bowl mix all ingredients until well combined.
Keep in the refrigerator. Set out to bring to room temperature before serving.

The 2011 Tomato Canning Extravaganza

August 15, 2011

Yesterday was the big canning day in One Woman’s Kitchen.  About 90 pounds of whole tomatoes became 22 quarts of peeled, crushed tomatoes and 9 cups of smooth tomato sauce.  It took 7 1/2 hours to complete, not counting the sauce, and made for two very tired women in this kitchen.  The results were a little disappointing this year.  We had a lot of rot in the tomatoes this year so a lot of them ended up mostly or completely in the trash.  Next year I’ll choose a different source for my tomatoes.

A number of you have asked me about canning at various times.  This time last year I wrote a general description of the process. This year I thought I’d try to be a little more specific for anyone who wants to try it.  A word of advice – start small.  No need to do 90 pounds right out of the gate.  And don’t feel like you need to buy a lot of equipment.  Any large pot will do.  That said, having the proper tools does make things easier and you can get a starter kit for about $30.  The starter kit will include:  a small rack, a jar lifter, a jar tightener, a venting stick, a metal ladle, a metal jar funnel and a lid magnet.  The one item I’d say is critical is the Ball Guide to Canning.

So here’s how it works:

  1. Core your tomatoes and cut any bad places out
  2. Put the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin blisters and starts to peel.
  3. Lift the tomatoes out of the boiling water and put them in ice water.
  4. Slip the peels from the tomatoes.  Put the peels in the trash and the tomatoes in a bowl for canning.
  5. Cut or crush the tomatoes if desired.
  6. Put some lemon juice (for the acid) and some salt (if desired) in the bottom of each clean, warm jar.  I use 1 T juice and 1/2 t salt for each quart sized jar.
  7. Fill the jars with tomatoes leaving about 1 inch at the top of the jar.
  8. Ladle some of the tomato juice into each jar to fill in the spaces and to fill each jar leaving 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar.
  9. Clean the top rim of each jar.
  10. Add a lid and screw on a band to fingertip tight.
  11. Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into boiling water.
  12. Make sure the boiling water covers the jar tops by about 2 inches.
  13. Place the lid back on the canner and process 45 minutes.  Take the top off of the canner and wait 5 minutes.
  14. Lift the jars out of the water and place them upright on a towel to cool and seal.
  15. Let them sit undisturbed 24 hrs.  The “button” on the lid will be depressed if the jar has sealed properly. (It also makes a lovely “plink” sound when that happens).

And that’s how it works.  A few tips. When I’m doing large volume canning I use the dishwasher to clean and heat the jars.  Just leave them in there until you’re ready to fill them.  If I’m just doing a little I put the clean jars in the canner with the water.  As the canner heats so do the jars.  Then I use the jar lifter to remove them from the canner and dump the water back into the pot. I use a small pan of water to heat the lids.  You can also heat some water in the microwave and then put the lids in it to heat.  They don’t have to boil.

Tomato tips:  Cut out all the bad spots.  The peels cling to the bad spots making the peeling more cumbersome than it needs to be.  Also, cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato.  That helps the skins split and makes peeling easier.  When you’re peeling, let the tomatoes sit in the ice bath for several minutes.  Remember, the tomatoes have been in boiling water for a while.  When you pull the tomato out of the ice bath and slip the peel off the tomato may fall apart and the insides will be very hot if you try to peel them right away.

Here’s a pictorial of the first part of the process.  Once I got into the middle of it I forgot to take more photos!  Then a photo of the end results.