Appetizers, Sauces & Other Extras

Muhammara

So we’re deep into Lent now, and this is the time that I am most likely to break. Not even necessarily that I consciously decide to go against the grain, but that I forget that I’ve made a decision to eat closer to the ground and that bowl of salted caramel truffles is calling my name and it’s like seven on a Thursday and what am I still doing at work… I know that you’re busy reshaping the world powered by other people’s humble prayers and good deeds, but God, please take a minute to forgive this human’s seemingly inability to not stop off at the grocery store for a bag of popcorn. I’m weak. I’m human. This dip is a good thing to eat to remind yourself that real food tastes better than fake food. This takes no time at all, and serves as both a great accompaniment to vegetables as it does a conversation starter. No one will believe that you just put things in the blender. Blend away, sinners.

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Muhammara

16 ounces roasted red peppers, drained

2-ish cups walnuts

6 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 cup virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Blend until you’ve achieved a smooth texture.

***Note to the follower of this recipe. This dip is very forgiving – this is actually what I consider the cheater / I have to make something for book club and I have nothing in the house version of this dip. Today I forgot to buy a lemon – or did I buy a lemon and just can’t find it? – so apple cider vinegar went in instead. Feel free to sub in different nuts, I have found that cashews are a decent and creamier substitute for walnuts.

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Sauces & Other Extras

Lemony Tomato Jam

My mother’s tomatoes outdid themselves this fall, and I was the happy recipient of a large colander of them two weeks ago. I do love tomatoes, but after several dinners of them with cottage cheese, and tomato soup and sandwiches, even I cave and find a way to can them. You probably already have your own go-to tomato sauce and salsa. If you have a bumper crop of juicy garnet-red orbs this fall, make tomato jam. You can spread it on sandwiches, serve it on a cheese plate or top meatloaf with it. This is your year for tomato jam. Just don’t do what I did and splash boiling hot water on your chest, and then have to walk around with an ice pack for a few hours – avoid that part. Do however, make this on a rainy day that begs you to curl into a blanket that your grandmother made and sink into another reading of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes. Have some goat cheese handy, with a little piece of bread – to check that the jam is, you know, just as good as you thought it might be.

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Lemony Tomato Jam

(makes twelve cups of jam)

6 pounds tomatoes, washed and quartered

6 lemons

6 cups sugar

4 tablespoons butter

3 jalapenos, seeded and diced

3 cups apple cider vinegar

3 limes, juiced

1/4 cup molasses

3 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons cardamom

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

8 cinnamon sticks

60 juniper berries

30 whole cloves

12 allspice berries

First things first, slice your lemons in half length-wise, then slice into thin half moons. Remove the seeds. Set these aside in a bowl while you move on to the next step.

Arrange all of your whole spices into a neat pile on a large-ish sheet of cheese cloth and tie shut with a long piece of twine.

In a vary large pot, combine the tomatoes, sugar and butter and bring to a gentle simmer. When the fruit has given up the ghost, so to speak, and has relinquished its juices to the sugar, you can crank that baby up higher to a boil. Boil for about eight minutes or so, stirring so as not to burn the bottom. Add the lemons and the jalapenos. You washed your produce, right? Please say you did that. Cook the tomatoes with the lemons for about five minutes.

Now added the vinegar, the juice from those limes, the molasses and the ginger. Add the cheese cloth with the spices, but tie the twine to the edge of the pot so that you can easily retrieve it later. Simmer this until the mixture has reduced by half. This is going to take at least two hours. Stir occasionally.

When reduced by half, ladle into clean jars and process.

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Salad, Sides

Tarragon Potato Salad

Tarragon is a liquorice-like tasting herb that makes for a unique potato salad that is perfect for a summer barbecue or picnic.20150802_194112_Richtone(HDR)

Tarragon potato salad

3 pounds small, waxy potatoes

6 green onions, roots removed and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup loosely packed parsley

3 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons coarsely ground mustard

4 hard boiled eggs

Boil the potatoes for about 25 minutes or until a fork slides into the potato easily. Remove from the water and chop in halves.

Blend the onions, olive oil, parsley, tarragon, vinegar and mustard. Mix this vinaigrette into the warm potatoes. Top with the hard boiled eggs on top of the potatoes.

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Drinks, Sweets

Strawberry Shrub

Long ago, before modern refrigeration and frozen fruit, we preserved the bounty of summer in salts and vinegars for the long and dark nights in winter. In colonial America we preserved berries and fruits in vinegar, and sometimes this fruit-infused vinegars were mixed with some sort of sugar to create a syrup called a shrub. We are no longer forced to preserve our summer fruits in vinegar, but that fruity-sour and sweet syrup can still be enjoyed today. Make this easy recipe today and mix with carbonated water like we did, or mix into your favorite liquor to make a sharp summer cocktail.

Strawberry shrub: which my dad called

Strawberry shrub: which my dad called “pleasantly palatable.”

Strawberry shrub

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup white vinegar

Carbonated Water to mix

Combine the sliced strawberries with the sugar and refrigerate overnight. Strain the syrup from the strawberries into a glass jar, and mix with the vinegars. If there is any sugar sitting in the strawberry bowl, add this to the vinegar mixture. To serve, place three or four ice cubes in a glass and top with 1/4 cup shrub. Top the shrub with carbonated water to your liking.

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