Pickled Probiotic Garlic

I am still on my lacto-fermentation kick. My latest project came to me as the answer to the question of what to do with the 3-pound bag of garlic I bought at Costco – pickle it, of course.

1 pint wide-mouth canning jar
1 pound garlic cloves, peeled (about 4 to 5 heads)
1 cup bottled or filtered water
9 grams (about 1 tablespoon coarse sea or Diamond-brand kosher salt)
3 dried red chiles, (arbol in this case)

In a small saucepan,  heat the water to a simmer. Add salt and stir until it dissolves. Remove  pan from heat and let to cool to room temperature.

Put peppers in the jar first, then top with garlic. Fill jar to within an inch from the top with tightly packed garlic cloves. Pour cooled brine over garlic, filling jar to within a half inch of the top.

Seal jar with a lid that will keep room air out while letting CO2 gas escape. A setup with an airlock like Pickl-It or Kraut Kap work great.

Let the jar sit on a dark spot on your counter for 7 days, checking every day to make sure that you are seeing small bubbles at the top of the brine and that nothing funky is growing there.

After a week, open the jar and take a whiff – it should smell very garlicky, but also sour and slightly fermented. You should smell little bit of sulfur, but it shouldn’t smell rotten. If it does, pitch it out and try again.

Now take a taste – a sour, salty, tang should have replaced  a lot of the garlic’s bite and mellowed out the flavor.

Does it taste good to you? If so, seal the jar with an airtight lid and move it off to the fridge. If it’s not quite done enough,  reseal it with the airlock and check it again in a few days. When it’s ready, seal and stash in the fridge. It will continue to slowly age there and store well for up to a year.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The end result is a little less punchy than fresh garlic, but has a much more well-rounded (almost roasted) garlic flavor.

You can use it just like fresh garlic. I sliver raw cloves and toss them into salads, or blend them into salad dressing. They also add a big kick to hummus, guacamole, and salsas. When the winter holidays roll around, I plan to put whole cloves out with a bunch of toothpicks and serve them as appetizers.

Kimchi

I’ve loved this fiery Korean side dish ever since I had it with our New Year’s Bo Samm. While our local Korean market carries jar upon jar of it (some as large as a small child) in their cooler, I know that this is traditionally a home-made dish and have been wanting to try my hand at making it myself.

Kimchi is like sauerkraut’s kick-ass evil twin. They both start out as innocently enough as lacto-fermented cabbage, but sauerkraut ends up tart and humble, while kimchi gets hot and funky.

This is actually my second attempt at making home-fermented kimchi. The first batch was tasty, but it got a bit over-fermented and very odoriferous. It was tasty, but well… let’s just say I got a whole seat on the bus to myself the next day.

Gear note: for fermenting you’ll need at least a quart-sized jar or other non-reactive container with a lid. I use a Kraut Kap airlock on a mason jar or a dedicated pickling container like Primal Pickler or Pickl-it.

1 pound Napa cabbage or bok choy
1 small daikon radish
1 carrot
1 small onion
1/2 inch long finger of fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons Singsong Korean Hot Pepper
4 tablespoons sea or kosher salt
6 cups bottled or filtered water

Make your brine by adding the salt in 6 cups of water and stirring until the salt completely dissolved. Note: using sea or kosher salt and filtered water is not just a bit of foodie pretentiousness  – iodine, anti-caking additives, and chlorine will screw up your fermentation and kill the good bugs that you want to foster.

Wash and dry all the veggies. Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and then chop into bite-sized chunks.  Julienne or grate the carrot, radish, and ginger. Quarter the onion.

Kimchi

Put the cabbage, carrot, radish, and ginger in a very large bowl and cover with the brine. Put a plate on top to keep them submerged, then let sit for at least 2 hours.

Put the garlic, onion, fish sauce, and pepper in a food processor and give it a whirl to combine. Add a bit of the brine if needed to form a thick paste. Stash in the fridge while the veggies soak up the brine.

Kimchi

After 2 hours, taste the cabbage – it should have softened a bit but still have a little crunch and be pleasantly salty. How salty? It should taste like the sea, or that first sip of a salt-rimmed margarita. You can do some adjusting at this point by letting it soak for another hour if it’s not salty enough, or by rinsing with fresh bottled water if it’s too salty.

When you’ve got it tasting right, drain the veggies, reserving the brine.

Add the chile paste to the veggies and (wearing gloves to avoid stains and smells) use your hands to mix everything together.

Kimchi

Pack the kimchi in a clean quart-sized jar or pickling container. Tamp the veggies down to remove any trapped air bubbles, making sure to leave 1 1/2 inches of head space at the top of the jar.

Kimchi

Add enough reserved brine cover the kimchi and still leave an inch of head space to allow for expansion during fermentation.

If you are not using an airlock, seal the jar loosely to let air escape as the fermentation bugs crank out their CO2. If you are using an airlock, seal the jar tightly, insert the airlock and add water up to the fill line.

Let stand for one to two days in a dark place at about room temperature. You may see bubbles forming in the jar or bubbling through the airlock – this is a good thing. Taste the kimchi now and then to see how it is progressing. It should start to taste a bit wild and tangy after about 4 days. This flavor will get stronger as it sits, so once the flavor is where you like it, remove the airlock and seal the jar then move it to the fridge.

I like to let it sit for a week in the fridge to mellow a bit. It keeps for several months, longer if you push the remaining back down as you use it to keep most of the cabbage submerged in the brine.

Serve as a side to any Korean dish, particularly anything with pork. It is also a great addition to fried rice, or omelets and makes a great hearty soup.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This dish has it all – tangy, savory, funky, rich and spicy. There are so many things going on (including a slight tingle from the fermentation) that it gives your taste buds a real wallop. It’s hitting so many flavor buttons that it’s pretty addictive.

I am particularly happy considering this one of my early attempts at lacto-fermentation. I’ve been trying to get more healthy, probiotic bugs into our diet and kimchi is definitely the gateway food for that. I am already looking at getting another fermenter to keep us in all the sauerkraut, pickled onions, kimchi, and hot sauce we can eat.

Sweet Corn Grilled in the Husk

Grilled Sweet Corn

I started cooking sweet corn naked on the grill (no husks, no silk, no nothing) because it seemed like the easiest and tastiest way to do it. Once the kernels hit the hot grates the sugars start to caramelize. They toughen up a bit, but you get this smoky/sweet flavor that’s hard to beat. Plus it’s an easy no muss, no fuss way to cook the corn – just toss it on while the meat is resting and everything comes to the table hot.

Well, since I am seriously reconsidering my position on letting meat (steaks specifically) rest after grilling, I might as well go full heretic and try grilling corn in the husk.

We had some absolutely lovely sweet corn that I figured would be a good candidate – they were plump fresh with tight, bright-green husks. All the better to protect the corn and hold all that corny goodness inside.

Grilled Sweet Corn

I don’t really have a recipe for this. Just get the grill up to medium-high (400°F) and toss the unshucked ears on. Give them a quarter turn every few minutes as the husks start to darken. You will be tempted to pull the ears off as soon as they are evenly browned and starting to smell corney.

Wait. Keep turning.

The husks will blister and blacken.

Wait. Keep turning.

The husks will char and start smoking. Your guests might look over at the grill questioningly.

Wait. Keep turning.

The husks will start to burn and little bits of ash will start floating away. You may see someone sliding the fire extinguisher a little closer to the grill.

Wait. If the corn is actually on fire, close the lid and back off the heat a bit. But if it’s just smoldering, keep turning.

Most of the husk will have blackened and fallen away and you should start seeing kernels peeking through. Your significant other has the phone out and is either dialing 911 or ordering pizza.

Wait. Keep turning.

The silk is almost completely gone, you can clearly see some of the kernels, and you will start hearing little popping sounds.

Now the corn is done. Move the ears off to a metal pan (9×13 cake pan works great) and tent with aluminum foil. Let rest while you finish cooking the rest of the meal.

Grilled Sweet Corn

To serve, wrap a towel around the stem to protect your hand, then husk the ear and snap off the end.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Yes, this is a messy way to cook corn. There were a lot of charred bits of husk and more than a few unruly silks floating around, but the corn tasted wonderful – still smoky/sweet like the naked corn, but with a much bigger corn taste and tenderer kernels.

Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

Did things get a little too Irish over the weekend? This’ll fix you up me boyo.

4 medium red potatoes, shredded
6 ounces diced corned beef (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 medium onion, shredded
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the potatoes, corned beef, onion, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a bowl. Stir to combine.

Heat the remaining oil in a 12-inch fry pan over medium heat. Fill the pan with the hash mixture, then use a spatula to press it into a flat, even layer.

Corned Beef Hash

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Flip and flatten again. Continue to cook, flipping every 10 minutes, until hash is well browned, about 40 minutes total.

Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with a couple of fried eggs.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Crispy taters mixed with sweet onion and tender corned beef – perfect!

The Nutrition:
This is medicine, not food. There aren’t any calories in medicine.

One year ago – Longaniza Sausage
Two years ago – Oven-Baked Oatmeal

Spicy Asian Pork Meatballs with Cucumber Salad

My dear wife told me that we had some ground pork that needed to be used. She was willing to make pork-something for dinner, but lacked the inspiration to decide exactly what to make.

I was otherwise occupied and didn’t have the time to cook, but I could spare a couple of minutes on the interwebs to find a recipe. I pulled up these two great recipes from the National Pork Board that looked tasty, showed them to her, and off she went.

I love it when a meal comes together.

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium lidded bowl, toss all the veggies together. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, and red pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the veggies, seal the bowl, give it a shake, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

1 pound Ground Pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic chili paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

Mix together all ingredients and form into small meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a 10-to-12-inch skillet over medium heat. Fry for 3-5 minutes or until browned and crisp. Turn and cook the undersides for another 3-5 minutes more, about 6-10 minutes total or until an instant read thermometer reads 160°F. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Serve the meatballs over some steamed rice with the salad on the side. Drizzle the whole works with a little sweet chili sauce or Sriracha to spice it up a bit if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Quick, tasty, and healthy – what’s not to love. The pork meatballs were rich and just packed with flavor. The sweet and tangy salad set them off nicely.

The original recipe called for making the pork into burgers to be grilled and served on buns. Add a little Sriracha mayo to it and I think that that would also be a tasty way to go.

The Nutrition:
Makes 4 servings at about 300 calories and 7 points per serving without the rice.

One year ago – Cottage Bacon
Two years ago – Habanero Hot Sauce

Harvesting the Bounty

My dear wife and I have very different temperaments (to put it mildly). She’s a list-maker, action-planner, get-things-done kind of gal, and I love her for it. Me, well… not so much. I’m more of a carpe diem kind of guy. I’m in charge of food and fun and am often surprised when the sun comes up in the east. It’s kind of like what would happen if Aesop’s ant and grasshopper got married, but we make it work.

When the first hint of fall hit a couple of weeks ago, my dear wife into full on ant mode. She made up a list of meals she wanted cooked in advance and frozen off and then we hit the farmers markets hard. She even borrowed our neighbor’s pressure cooker and Mason jars from a friend so we could do some canning.

I gotta admit that the sounds this old Presto pressure cooker made were a little scary, but it made short work of processing sealed jars.

The end result of two weekends spent cooking: 2 roasted chickens (pulled and frozen into 1-pound packages), 4 quarts of salsa verde, 3 batches of stuffed peppers, 26 quarts of canned tomatoes, and 36 pints of salsa.

I think making pickles is next on the agenda.

I’m one lucky grasshopper!

One year ago – Simple Steaks
Two years ago – Dark & Stormy

Planked Salmon Nicoise

I had enough salmon left over from my last batch of Planked Salmon that I sealed some of it off in a FoodSaver bag and froze it for later. Then we hit a deal on fresh green beans, new potatoes, and real tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I knew it was time to make a salmon version of my Tuna Nicoise.

The Dressing
2 anchovies, or 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

Make the dressing first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until they are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin to thicken and form an emulsion, kind of like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Salad
1 cooked salmon filet, about a pound
1 head Romain lettuce, chopped
1/2 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and then cook another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Blanch the green beans by bringing 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the green beans and let boil for at least 3 minutes. Check for doneness. Immediately drain the green beans in a colander and plunge them into ice cold water to bring the temperature down. Drain the beans.

This is a composed (versus tossed) salad, so lay all the goodies out on the table and let folks put together their own plates.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This was a great dish to beat the summer heat. No real cooking involved and everything came together in a flash. The farm-fresh veggies pair well with the tangy vinaigrette. I halved the oil in the dressing, so it was plenty tasty, but not nearly as rich, making it a nice match for the salmon as well.

The Nutrition:
Serves 4. Go easy on the dressing and this meal is only 480 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points per serving.

ONE YEAR AGO – Cucumber Margarita

TWO YEARS AGO – Meat on a Stick

 

Grilled Sweet Corn in the Husk

We are just now getting our first local sweet corn of the season. It’s not at peak yet, but it’s still wonderful and I plan on eating bushels of it before the summer is over.

There are probably hundreds of ways to cook sweet corn, but my hands-down favorite is grilled with the husks on. It’s a little messy, but the husk and silk protect the corn from the direct heat of the grill so it kind of both steams and roasts in its own juices which concentrates the flavor.

Buy the freshest corn you can find – look for full, heavy ears with tight, bright-green husks. Trim the ears by removing the outer husks until you have just a few pale-green layers left. Leave the silk around the corn, but remove any excess silk on the end (I just cut everything past the end of the cob off with kitchen shears). Trim the stalks, leaving just an inch or so to use as a handle.

Soak the ears in ice water while you fire up the grill. You want a hot (500°F) direct fire.

When the grill is ready, arrange the ears directly on the grate and cook, turning every couple of minutes, until the husks are charred and blackened (and sometimes on fire), about 10-15 minutes total.

To remove the husks, hold the ear upright by the stalk (use a kitchen towel or insulated food gloves to keep from burning yourself) and peel it like a banana – pulling the husks down around the stem. Pick off any remaining silk, then snap the stalk off, taking the husks with it. Like I said, it can be a little messy, so I try to do it outside or over a trash can.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’ve had a lot of sweet corn in my time, but this was some of the corniest ever (I know, sorry ;)) – the flavor was sweet, but also really rich. The husk and silk kept all that wonderful corn essence in, but still let just enough fire through to give it a little smoke and caramelization.

The only way to improve on this would be moving the cooked and husked corn back to the grill for a little butter baste at the end. But that might just be gilding the lily.

The Nutrition:
An ear is 113 calories and 2 Weight Watchers points without the butter. But who has sweet corn without butter?!?

ONE YEAR AGO – Asian Chicken Salad

TWO YEARS AGO – Buffalo Chicken

 

Zuccaghetti with Lemon Caper Sauce

Zuccaghetti? Combine a seasonal overabundance of zucchini with a wicked Titan Julienne Peeler and you get long shreds of zucchini doing a fine job of pretending to be pasta.

Zuccaghetti with Lemon Caper Sauce
1 large, or 2 medium, zucchini
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Use a julienne slicer or peeler to shred the zucchini into a colander. Toss with the saltand let drain for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and has stopped foaming, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and sauté until the zucchini is heated through and just starts to soften, about two minutes. Stir in the capers and lemon juice and bring to a simmer.

Serve immediately, topped with a little grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This is a great side dish for summer meals. The zucchini “noodles” have a very similar texture to real pasta, so you can scratch that carb-craving itch without all the carbs.

The sauce was a little too acidic, maybe more butter and less lemon juice, or just less lemon juice. I think this would also be good as a main dish with a meat sauce.

The Nutrition:
The whole dish is only 6 Weight Watchers points for the butter and oil. An average serving would only be 2 or 3 points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Huli Huli Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO – Mixed Berry Pretzel Icebox Dessert

 

Basted T-bones & Giardiniera

With the heat we’ve had lately, any excuse not to fire up the stove is a good one. I found these two t-bones lurking in the bottom of our freezer and decided to grill them both up so that we could have plenty of leftovers for steak salad.

My dear wife made a big batch of giardiniera (pickled veggie salad) well in advance so that it was nice and cool and all the flavors had drawn through. It can be ready to eat in 25 minutes, but making it a day ahead (and making enough to snack on through the week) is the way to go.

Giardiniera adapted from Eating Well
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets
2 cups green beans
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Add the veggies and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid, then drain.

Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl. Stir in oil, pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each crushed red pepper and salt and the reserved cooking liquid. Refrigerate for at least 25 minutes to chill. Stir and serve with a slotted spoon.

Butter Basted Steaks
2 t-bone steaks
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Remove the steaks from the fridge and give them a good dusting with some ground sea salt and black pepper. Then set your grill up for a direct cook at slightly sub-nuclear temperature (about 600°F).

While the grill is getting up to temp, make the butter baste. Combine the butter, oil, thyme, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a shallow baking pan (I use a 9×13 disposable foil pan) and heat it up right on the grill, stirring to combine everything as the butter melts. Then set the pan beside the grill to keep it warm.

Sear the steaks for 60 seconds on each side, then move them off into the butter sauce. Flip them a couple of times to coat both sides with all that herby/buttery wonderfulness, then back on the grill for another 30 seconds on each side. Keep flipping every 30 seconds or so and start checking for doness – I like my steaks medium-rare, so 125°F internal. These steaks took just over 2 minutes per side total.

Move the steaks off into the butter sauce and give them another flip. Let rest for 10 minutes, then move the steaks to a cutting board. Reserve the butter mix and keep the pan warm.

Trim off any fat or connective tissue from the steaks and then slice the meat on a diagonal into 1/4-inch slices. Put the sliced steak and any accumulated meat juices from the cutting board back into butter mix. Give the pan a shake to coat the meat.

Serve with the giardiniera on the side, or over a mixed green salad.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The t-bones were mostly ribeye, so the meat was rich and tender. I got a nice char on them, and I love that contrast between the crisp, almost bitter outside and the smooth and meaty inside. The butter baste is the icing on the steak. You could live without it, but it does add lots of juiciness and more layers of flavor.

The giardiniera was a great accompanying dish with plenty of bite and a little heat. Feel free to double the recipe and use whatever veggies are fresh. This dish also makes a great appetizer, or bump up the olive oil and add some cheese and salami and you’ve got a light antipasto lunch.

The Nutrition:
If you trim it, t-bone steak is 5 points for 3 ounces of meat. The baste and the giardiniera adds about 3 more points for the oil. Go heavy on the veggies and it’s all good.

ONE YEAR AGO – Pulled Picnic

TWO YEARS AGO – Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops with Peanut Noodles