Monday, April 27, 2020

Joey's Pickled Red Onions

   Ever since I learned how to preserve things in jars, I've had a sort of bucket list of things I'd like to make. Slowly but surely, I'm working my way through that list, ticking each box, and then moving on to the next one. One of the main criteria for landing on that list is that it needs to be something that you wouldn't normally see at the grocery store. Like, for instance, my pineapple basil jam. Not exactly your standard fare, would you say? Or how about raspberry rhubarb jam? As delicious as it was unexpected! I've even done pickled peaches and pickled water melon rind. Who knew? Not everything has been met with the greatest response, but in all honestly, I've loved every single one of my projects. I think the pickled pineapples were pretty high up on that list! And also the candied jalapenos. Fabulous! But I digress..
 So that brings me to my latest project. Pickled red onions! Have you ever tried them? They're great on sandwiches, burgers, salads, and according to my nephew, Gregger (who requested them), they're especially great on fish tacos! My first thought was that I wanted the sharp onion flavor to mellow out a bit, and I wanted them to be a little bit sweet to go with the sour.
 Once again, true to form, I found many recipes online, but none was exactly what I had pictured in my head. So I started with a pretty basic recipe, and then didn't follow it. LOL I mean, yes, I used the same ingredients, but I changed literally every single amount to suit my own taste. How does one do this, you may ask? Well, you TASTE it! I always like a stronger hit of vinegar when I'm making pickles, and I like a hit of sweetness too. So, right away I changed the vinegar to water ratio. And then I added more sugar, tasting as I went, until I found exactly the right blend of sweet, sour, sharp, and pungent. FABULOUS! Then after I figured out what was going into it, I let the onions hang out for a while in the brine, just to relax in their briny hot tub for a while. The result was literally EXACTLY what I wanted. The jars are beautifully pink, the onions were more mellow and smooth, and the flavor was spot on. Now that I've made them, I think I may have to add them to the yearly rotation along with canning my Jersey Tomatoes, and making bread and butter pickles. They're just absolutely delish! This one's for you, Gregger!

5 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
3 tbs mixed peppercorns
8 bay leaves
6 lbs red onions

Place all ingredients except onions in a large pot over high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low simmer. Meanwhile, peel and THINLY slice all the onions. You can use a sharp knife, but I used a mandoline. You can also use a food processor. You do you! (Side note, I usually don't use a processor when I'm slicing something for canning because I like the control of cutting exactly how I want them.) After all the onions are sliced, add them to the pot, and turn the heat off. Let the onions sit in the hot brine for a good 15 -20 minutes. They will soften and the brine will turn that lovely coveted pink hue.
 If you're not canning, place the onions in jars, let stand until room temperature, then store in the fridge. They'll last pretty much indefinitely, but I promise you they'll be gone before then!
 If you're canning, wash and sterilize 8 pint-size jars. Fill each jar with onions, then add brine to fill, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Insert a chopstick or plastic utensil down inside of the jar to release any air bubbles, then adjust head space if needed. Wipe rims clean, apply two-piece lids, then process your jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove to a cloth lined tray. Let sit, undisturbed for at least 24 hours.

Definitely taste as you go when you're making the brine. Not sure how sweet you like it? Just add a little sugar at a time. Not sure how sour you want it? Start out with the water, then add the vinegar a little at a time until it's as strong as you want. This is just a basic recipe, but feel free to add anything else you like. Garlic, fresh dill, crushed red pepper flakes, you could even just use store bought pickling spice. It will all work. Customize the flavor profile to fit YOU!

I've discovered that, as they sit in the jars, they can get quite mellow over time, and can become rather sweet. Maybe even just tad too sweet for some. I think I my cut back the sugar and add a little more vinegar next time, just to keep that awesome punch of sour that I love!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Attie's Artisan Rosemary Rolls

  Here's an easy recipe from my niece, Natalie, commonly known in my family as Attie. When I asked her where she got the recipe, she said she found it online, but then remembered she actually used a combination of recipes, so that means it's now hers! (I guess that must be a family thing, because I do the exact same thing all the time!) Anyway, I love that it only takes a few ingredients and you just mix everything together. I think I might need to make these the next time I make a batch of jam. YUM. Thanx Attie! And thanx for the awesome picture too!

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chopped rosemary

Mix together all ingredients, then add 1 1/2 cups warm water and 1-2 tbsp olive oil. It will be a shaggy mess. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 8 hours. It will look flat, sticky, and bubbly on top.
Turn dough out on a floured surface. Cut dough into 12 pieces. Quickly shape into scraggly balls (uneven edges lead to more crispy browned edges!) and put on dry baking sheet or parchment paper. Let sit again for 20 min. Bake at 425ºF for 20 min or until golden brown.

Notes from Natalie:
Honestly, you can't really mess this recipe up. No kneading, you literally mix it and let it sit over night.
Another way to do this is to bake as one loaf in a Dutch oven:
Preheat the dutch oven for 30 min in a hot 450ºF oven. Throw the dough in, bake for 30 min lid on, 10 minutes lid off.To keep it from sticking, you can either put parchment paper in the bottom or do a light sprinkle of flour AFTER the Dutch oven is heated (otherwise, it'll burn!)

Monday, April 13, 2020

Ham and Pineapple Casserole

   My Mom used to say you get a lot of bang for your buck when you  buy a ham because you can serve it at any meal - breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Of course it's great as a fabulous Holiday Ham dinner, but what do you do with al the leftover ham? Well, you have ham sandwiches, you dice it and throw it into an omelette or a quiche, or you add it to a casserole!
 This casserole uses the classic pairing of ham and pineapple, and bakes it together with pasta and a creamy sauce. It's simple to throw together and you go vary it to your heart's content.
 So give this one a try the next time you have a little leftover ham. It's a great "round two" recipe to make sure you get the most bang for your buck!

1 lb ziti, or other cut pasta
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
2 cups diced ham
1 8oz block of cream cheese
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
2 tbs butter, melted

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, saute the chopped onions and peppers in a little oil. Saute until softened. Add diced ham. Continue to saute for a minute or two. Add cream cheese and milk. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. When pasta is cooked, add to saute pan along with pineapple. (or use a big bowl to better facilitate this). Toss everything well to coat with sauce. Place in a large casserole dish.
In a small bowl, melt butter. mix with crushed crackers. Lightly sprinkle your buttered cracker crumbs over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

To make sure your sauce is flavorful, you definitely want to give it a taste before you add the pasta to it. You could even add some sliced scallions to it, just to bump up the fresh flavor a bit.
Instead of using Ritz crackers, use whatever kind of crackers you like! You could also use seasoned bread crumbs or even crushed potato chips.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Matso Ball Soup

   Whenever I have some time to kill, or if I just need some down time, one of my usual escapes is watching videos on youtube. Sometimes I'll refer to it as "going down the youtube rabbit hole" because very often I'll start watching videos, and the next thing I know, it's 3 hours later. Anyway..
 I follow several channels, but I think my most favorite is from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. (ok, maaaaayybe I'm obsessed with it. Don't judge me). They have some of the best recipes, and the featured chefs on the channel are all hilarious and informative and they are the perfect cast of characters. Of course I love it when they all come together, like when they made the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner, or the perfect pizza, but then they also each have their own individual shows:
 Carla does a thing where she'll teach a guest how to make a recipe using only verbal instructions. In other words, they'll stand back to back, not being able to see what the other is doing. It's a pretty awesome gimmick, and frankly, I think I'd be up for the challenge, if you're listening, Carla.
Claire's show is about replicating common snack foods. Like, she made her own Oreos, and Girl Scout Cookies, and Doritos. It's amazing how detailed she gets.
Brad... (who cracks me up), does a show called It's Alive, where he uses fermentation.. which I'm just learning. I'm dying to make my own sauerkraut.
 I won't go into EVERY show they do.. but there are so many others that I feel like I've come to know them personally.... Andy is fabulous and gorgeous and I love that he always slices his onions while looking right into the camera.. I love how Chris smells his food for like a LONG time before he takes a bite, and is always listening to some 80s band I've never heard of... and he's always the final judge.. like, if CHRIS says it's good, then you know it's good...... And then we come to one of my very favorites, Molly.
 First of all, she has a dog named Tuna, which cracks me up. I'd love to ask her where that came from. And another thing I love about Molly, in addition to being hilarious and someone I'd love to hang out with, she does this thing where she abbreviates words as she's speaking. Like, black pepper, is black pep. Caesar Salad is Cae Sal. Potatoes are potates. So forth.
 Anyway, I could talk about the BA youtube channel forever, but the point is that I saw Molly making this recipe, and I immediately wanted to make it.
 I had been in the mood to make a "let it simmer all day" kind of recipe for a while, and this one answered the call. No, I'm not Jewish, but who doesn't love a nice big pot of chicken soup? And since it's different from the way I usually make my own chicken soup, I decided to give it a go.
 It turned out really well! It's SO deep and flavorful, you will not believe a broth could be so rich. And overall, there was nothing very difficult about it. It just took a little time and a few steps. FABULOUS.
 Now, I have it listed below as the recipe was originally printed. But then at the end, I listed a few things I would do differently next time. For instance, I love that she roasted the chicken wings before adding them to the stock, but there are a few minor things I would change. Anyway, just read the whole thing. See what works best for you. And at the end of the day, you'll have a fabulous and delicious bowl of soup. And if you find yourself with some time to kill, go look at the BA Test Kitchen Youtube Channel. It's really awesome! Maybe someday I'll get to meet them.
That would be pretty awesome!

6 lb. chicken wings
6 large eggs
1/2 cup melted schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable oil
6 tbs chicken broth or water
3 tbs chopped dill, plus more for serving
3 tbs plus 3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more
1 1/2 cups matzo meal
2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
1 medium parsnip, cut into 2" pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 2" pieces
1 bunch parsley
1 tbs black peppercorns
3 medium carrots, 1 unpeeled, cut into 2" pieces, 2 peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)

 Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 450°. Spread chicken wings on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden brown, 45–55 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the matzo ball dough. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until no streaks remain. Add schmaltz, broth, 3 tbs dill, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisk in matzo meal until well combined. Chill at least 35 minutes or up to 2 hours (this is essential so that the matzo meal can hydrate).
Transfer wings and any accumulated juices on baking sheet to a large pot. Add onions, garlic, parsnip, celery, parsley, peppercorns, and 1 chopped (not sliced) carrot. Cover with 4 quarts water. Bring to a simmer and cook, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until stock is slightly reduced, 45 minutes.
Season chicken legs with 1 1/2 tsp salt and let sit until ready to use. After stock has been simmering for 45 minutes, add chicken legs and simmer until legs are very tender, about 45 minutes longer.
 While chicken legs cook, poach the matzo balls. Bring 3 qt. water to a boil in a medium pot. Season with 3 tbs salt.
Using dampened hands, roll matzo mixture into 16 balls about 1 1/2" in diameter. It’s okay to really work them into a ball; they won’t get dense—trust us, we tried! Transfer to a small rimmed baking sheet or large plate.
Carefully lower matzo balls into boiling water with a slotted spoon, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a low simmer. Cover pot and simmer over low heat, checking occasionally to make sure water isn’t boiling too rapidly, until balls are very puffed and light in color, 30–40 minutes. Don’t remove them sooner than this; they will be dense in the middle if undercooked. Turn off heat and let balls sit in cooking liquid until ready to serve.
Back to the stock. Transfer chicken legs to a plate and let cool. Strain stock into a medium pot; discard wings and solids. Remove meat, discarding skin and bones. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces and return to stock. Add thinly sliced carrots. Return liquid to a simmer and cook until carrots are just tender, 3–4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning for salt.
 Using a slotted spoon, place 2 matzo balls in each bowl. Ladle soup over. Garnish with chopped dill and pepper. 
Do Ahead: Matzo balls can be made 2 days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container along with 2–3 Tbsp. cooking liquid and chill. Gently lower balls into soup and cook over medium-low heat until heated through, about 15 minutes. Stock (with shredded chicken) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and chill. If you want a leaner soup, skim off schmaltz before reheating.

Ok, so, I'm not a trained chef, and they're definitely the experts, but here's what I would do differently. Sorry Molly, don't hate me!
I'm not gonna buy SIX POUNDS of chicken wings, just to discard them. I mean, I get it, I know that the point is to extract flavor out of them, but it just seems like such a waste to me. Same with the aromatics. I don't like the idea of adding carrots, and onions, and celery, and parsnips, only to strain them and throw them away. I do, however, like the idea of adding the onion skins and the whole head of unpeeled garlic, as well as the other skins to make a richer deeper broth. So, my plan for next time is to roast the chicken wings as directed, but maybe only do half as much, and then I'll just pull any meat from them and throw it back into the pot. And the aromatics can just stay in the soup. I'll just tie up the extra skins and such into a small cheesecloth bundle. This way we can boil all the goodness from them, and then easily fish it out of the pot.
Ok, now lets talk about the balls. I made them just as directed, and I found them to be a little dense and bit dilly, even after cooking them for more than the allotted time. Not being the authority on what matso balls should be, I looked at other recipes, just for the sake of comparison. I tried a recipe called Floater Matso Balls from, and I have to say, I think I like them a little better. First of all, they were much BIGGER (as you can see in the picture) and they were lighter and fluffier. According to her article, the fluffiness is attained from adding baking powder to the balls. From what I've read, this is a bone of contention with some people because of the leavening that it brings which some say is not permissible for Passover. But apparently baking powder is mineral based instead of grain based and is therefore Kosher, which means it is acceptable in matso balls. Again, I'm not Jewish, and I really don't know what I'm talking about. Just passing along what I've read. 
Anyway, back to the BA recipe... another thing I'd do differently is I think I'd like to poach the matso balls right in the soup. Why dirty another pot? They hold together rather tightly, (and so did the Floater Balls recipe) so I don't think they would ruin the broth, and they'd only taste better by being cooked in the soup, right? no? The only downside to that is that the balls would soak up some of the broth. So if you're feeding a crowd, you'll get more servings of soup if you poach them separately, but since it's just me, I'll poach them in the broth!