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Preserves in Action: Simple Peach Cake

peaches in a jar

When I was doing my big jar reorg a few weeks ago, I discovered a small cache of gingery canned peaches from the summer of 2012. The seals were good and the color was unchanged, so I knew they would be fine to eat, but figured it would be a good idea to start using them up before peach season rolls around again.

cake dough and peaches

There’s an Ina Garten recipe I’ve made a couple times during the height of summer that involves layering fresh peaches into cake batter and dusting them with cinnamon and sugar. I decided to take a stab at making it with my canned peaches.

first peach layer

Of course, because I cannot resist these things, I also omitted some of the sugar and swapped in whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose in an attempt to make it slightly more virtuous. The end result was a very delicious cake, though if you skip down to the last picture, you’ll see that my perfectly arranged peaches sunk right down to the bottom of the pan.

second peach layer

I think this happened for three reasons. The first is that I used buttermilk in place of the sour cream that the original recipes requests. Sour cream is slightly thicker and so leads to a denser batter (but I had exactly a cup of buttermilk and I so desperately wanted to get that jug out of the fridge).

The second reason is that I omitted the cinnamon and sugar sprinkle between layers in my attempts at virtuosity. Finally, those canned peaches have had the last three years to absorb additional liquid, making them heavier than their fresh counterparts.

finished peach cake

Still, it was entirely edible and the guys Scott had over for a D&D game did not complain about the sunken peaches (and I did not apologize). However, next time I make it, I think I’m just going to arrange all the peaches at the bottom of the pan, pour the batter on top and call it an upside down cake.

If you want to make it as Ina intended, her recipe is here. The recipe with my alterations can be found below.

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Preserves in Action: Kimchi Quesadilla

side of quesadilla

I taught a class Monday night and by the time I got home, I was ravenous. I’d eaten all the interesting leftovers for lunch and my husband had made himself a meal of hot dogs and peas from the freezer. Looking into the fridge, I spotted a package of whole wheat tortillas, a jar of kimchi, and a block of cheddar cheese. Kimchi quesadillas it was!*

tortilla with cheese and kimchi

To make the quesadilla, I plunk a skillet on the stove and start heat the pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, I put the bottom tortilla into the skillet. I don’t add any oil because my pan is seasoned well enough that for a quick job like this, it just doesn’t need it. If you were using a stainless steel pan, you might want a quick slick of oil to prevent sticking.

kimchi

Yes, I’m using store bought kimchi. I am out of my homemade version and with the book work going on around here, I just cannot muster the will to make a fresh batch.

 

Then I spread the grated cheese out on the tortilla, taking care to keep it on the tortilla and off the actual pan. Then I fork out some kimchi. Because I have a small obsessive streak, I try and make sure that my kimchi is placed so that I will get some in every bite. Then I put the second tortilla on top, pressing down gently with the palm of my hand to help adhere it to the melting cheese.

fish spatula

Because my burners heat incredibly unevenly, I end up rotating the pan during cooking, so that all sides get even toasting. Using a flexible fish spatula (the best tool ever for jobs like this), I peek underneath the bottom tortilla. If it is golden, it is time to flip. The second side needs just a minute or two. Once it’s done, I put it on a cutting board to let it cool for a moment and then cut it up into wedges using a big knife.

finished quesadilla

This would work just as deliciously if you cooked sauerkraut or some other tangy pickled vegetable into the quesadilla. I’ve also made something similar with a few spoonfuls of chutney to very good effect. Heck, you could even make a dessert preserves in action quesadilla using fresh ricotta cheese and some fruit preserves. The options are endless!

*I do not claim to have invented the kimchi quesadilla. As far as I can tell, the idea has been floating around the internet since late 2009, when Roy Choi’s recipe was printed in one of the final issues of Gourmet. Still, it’s a good one!

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Preserves in Action: Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Squash and Pickled Cauliflower

finished couscous salad

Like so many of the salads I’ve in the past, this one came to be thanks to a chorus of ingredients that were clamoring for attention. I had a trio of rapidly softening shallots in the fruit basket, an aging butternut squash on the counter, and both some pickled cauliflower and wilted cilantro in the fridge.

butternut squash & shallots

I used Israeli couscous because it was the vehicle I could most easily put hands on (the bag was on the counter). Farro, wheat berries, orzo, or quinoa would also be good options. I happen to adore Israeli couscous because it has such a nice bite, but if you’re avoiding refined carbs or wheat entirely, know that the salad won’t suffer from a swap.

pickled cauliflower

Here’s how it came together. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds, cut away a soft spot, and diced it. I combined those cubes with slivers of shallot and a good glug of olive oil on a roasted sheet and tucked it into a very hot oven (450 degrees F). The couscous I cooked in a large pot of salted water brought to a rolling boil (it cooks quickly, so watch carefully).

steamy israeli couscous

Once the couscous was done, I drained it and turned it out into a large bowl. I added chopped bits of pickled cauliflower and minced cilantro. Once the squash and shallots were done, they went in too. I dressed it with pickle juice, olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a little freshly ground black pepper, and some of the orange zest salt I made recently.

I ate it warm over some baby arugula for dinner the first night and then cold for lunch for the next couple of days. I found that it benefitted from an extra dose of olive oil on the second and third days, as it needed just a hint of moisture.

couscous salad over greens

It’s a formula that is endlessly flexible for the season and the contents of your kitchen. In the summer, I make something similar with barley, pickled red onion, minced cucumbers, parsley, and crumbled feta. Once spring is more firmly here, I’ll be roasting asparagus and spring onions for a turn in a quinoa salad. The secret is to limit the number of ingredients to no more than six, use a fresh herb if you can get it, and chop the pickles very fine.

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Preserves in Action: Avocado Sauerkraut Sauce

avocado sauerkraut toast

If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I thought that sauerkraut was a good breakfast food, I would have raised a questioning eyebrow at you. My oh my, how my tune has changed. These days, I subscribe to the notion that any time of day is a good time for sauerkraut, kimchi, or salty tangy fermented dilly beans (they are pickle heaven).

To that end, one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast at the moment is a couple thick slabs of toast (no-knead bread leavened with sourdough is my ideal option, but any sturdy loaf will do), topped with mashed avocado, a few forkfuls of sauerkraut, and some freshly ground black pepper. It is fresh-tasting, filling, and perfectly eye-opening.

Now I realize that avocado toast is woefully overexposed these days, but I can’t help it my love for it. I’ve been eating it since my early childhood days in Southern California, when a friend of my parents’ would regularly bring over a grocery bag full of avocados off his tree.

If you happen to have an avocado in the fruit bowl and some kraut in the fridge, you should give it a try. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

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Preserves in Action: Eggs Over Sauerkraut

Fried eggs over carrot/cabbage kraut and a little hot sauce. Breakfast for lunch!

It has been a really quiet week for me (this flu was no joke). My cooking has been limited to soup, eggs, and a single batch of bread. The worst of it has been that my sense of taste was dampened by the congestion and continues to somewhat muted. So even if I had the energy for ambitious cooking or preserving, it would have been lost on me.

Because things are tasting flat, I’ve been reaching for highly flavored things like sauerkraut and pickles, trying to replace nuance with pungency. Yesterday’s simple lunch was particularly satisfying.

I pulled a jar of young sauerkraut out of the fridge and forked out a generous layer onto a place. I cracked two eggs into a hot, buttered skillet and cooked until the whites were set but the yolks were still runny (my father calls this “over easy, hold the wiggle”). Once the eggs were done, I slide them out onto the sauerkraut, and then topped the whole thing with several drops of Alana’s excellent hot sauce.

The eggs warmed the cold kraut slightly and the hot sauce added extra zip. Together, that plate of food offered both high flavor and healing nutrition. Here’s hoping both my energy levels and my sense of taste will be back to normal by next week!

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Preserves in Action: Roasted Tomato and Feta Dip

roasted tomato dip

I am not a sports fan, but I am the daughter of a man who cares deeply about nearly every flavor of mainstream college and professional sports (hockey is the only thing that leaves him cold). Thanks to my dad, I have spent far more hours in stadiums and in front of large television sets watching men run after balls and around bases than I ever would have if left to my own devices.

Despite my disinterest, it never took much to convince me to participate in the watching, because I learned from an early age that snacks were an integral part of being a spectator. And I most definitely wanted in on those snacks.

roasted tomato dip top

This Sunday is the biggest game of them all, and for weeks now, blogs and food websites have been offering up recipes to serve at your party. I typically stay clear of the Game Day Spread topic, but I whirled up a really delicious impromptu dip a few days ago and so it seemed silly not to get it up here in advance of the insanity.

You start with two cups of roasted grape tomatoes (all the better if you added some garlic while roasting). If you have some of these squirreled away in your freezer, you’re halfway there. If not, turn a pint of grocery store grape tomatoes out onto a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, add some garlic, and roast hot and fast or low and slow, until the tomatoes have wilted and browned.

tomato dip on a chip

Let the tomatoes cool and then dump them into the bowl of a food processor. Add 8 ounces of cream cheese, 4 ounces of crumbled feta (tangier is better), and 1/2 cup marinated roasted red pepper strips (if your grocery store has a antipasto bar, buy just what you need there instead of opening a jar that you will then have to refrigerate). Process to combine.

Add salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt at first, because feta often has plenty). If it needs a little more acidity, go with a squirt of lemon juice. Refrigerate to firm it up a little and then serve with cut-up veggies or chips of some kind. I’ve been eating it for lunch with celery sticks, or using it as a sandwich spread. Delicious and easy, just the way we like it.

(I realize that I wrote a very similar post to this one three years ago, complete with a recipe for a different tomato dip. Life is cyclical and I’m okay with that.)

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