Quick Pickles and the End of Winter

quick cucumber pickles

Without really meaning to, I took most of this week off from showing up around these parts. The manuscript for my next book is due in just five weeks (yikes!) and it’s been hard to think of anything beyond those 100+ recipes and their accompanying headnotes and introductions.

I’m also floundering a little as far as preserving inspiration goes. It happens every year around this time, when the citrus begins to fade and there’s nothing bright and fresh and new to take its place (though I have heard tell that champagne mangos are arriving in markets. That’s exciting).

I did recently make the quick pickles pictured above. We had a hothouse cucumber that had gone soft on one end and so I trimmed away the squidgy parts and made a brine from unseasoned rice wine vinegar, some salt, red chili flakes, green onion and dehydrated garlic bits (embarrassingly, we were entirely out of fresh garlic the day I made these). They’ve been good eating and help me remember that more flavorful days are coming.

Are any of the rest of you suffering from some late winter blahs? How are you dealing with them?

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Links: Energy Bars, Fruit Squares, and Winners!


by hand and bag

by hand winners Time for winners! I loved reading about all the things you guys make by hand. You are truly a group of talented, handy folks!

Our By Hand tote bag and magazine copy recipients are Sarsie (#105) and Katie (#637). I’ll be in touch soon!

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Fair Food and The Brewer’s Plate (+ Giveaway!)

Fair Food Farmstand

Philadelphia is fortunate to have a number of organizations that work to support the local foodshed, connect farmers with restaurants and shoppers, and generally spread the work about the amazing food that is being grown, raised, and produced through the region.

One such organization is Fair Food. In addition to running a very visible Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market, they do an amazing job of connecting producers with restaurants and institutions who want to use local food in their kitchens.

Each year, Fair Food throws a grand fundraiser called The Brewer’s Plate, in which they bring together nearly fifty area restaurants, brewers, cheesemakers, and bakers for an orgiastic evening of tasting and sipping. This year’s event is coming up on Sunday, March 10 and runs from 5:30-9 pm at the National Constitution Center. General admission is $70 a head and VIP tickets are $140 (it gets you early admission and access to an extra, less crowded area).

Fair Food has given me a pair of general admission tickets (a $140 value!) to give away for this year’s Brewer’s Plate (sadly, transportation to Philadelphia is not included). If you can get yourself to Philly on March 10 and want a chance to win the tickets, here’s what you do:

brewersplatewinner The winner is commenter #69, Michele G., from RowHouse Livin’.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share a reason why you like to eat locally grown/raised/products foods when you can.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon on Monday, March 7. The winner will be posted promptly to the blog.
  3. Giveaway open to anyone who can get to Philadelphia on March 10.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Fair Food gave me a pair of tickets for giveaway, as well as an additional pair that I can use. However, my opinions are my own and uninfluenced by these tickets. No cash changed hands. 

Canning Classes for Summer 2013

class image revised

Over the last several weeks, I’ve spent some time trying to get my ducks in a row for upcoming canning season (I know that some of you down south already have strawberries, but it’ll be at least eight weeks still before we see them in my neck of the woods). I’ve been filling weekends with canning classes and demos and have finally managed to get some of what I’ve planned organized enough to share. That’s right, there are new, fresh dates up on my Canning Classes page.

Do know that this isn’t a complete list of classes and events. I still have a few things up my sleeve (including possible classes in Brooklyn, Nashville, and Portland, OR). I need to insert sign up links for all the classes at Greensgrow as well as my tomato canning extravaganza. But if you’re the type who likes to start to planning your summer now, hopefully this will help things a little!

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Curly Parsley and Arugula Pesto

arugula and parsley pesto

More often than I like to admit, I buy groceries without any sort of plan as to what to do with them. This isn’t much of a problem when the impulse item is a loaf of fancy sourdough (toast! bread crumbs! croutons!) or a bag of lovely pears (salads! snacks! tarts! jam!), but things get more challenging when I end up buying two very large bunches of curly parsley without any sort of strategy.

parsley and arugula

The parsley was my most recent spur-of-the-moment purchase. I was at Reading Terminal Market (it’s Philadelphia’s original market and is still a wonderful place to have lunch or buy groceries). One of the produce stalls was selling gorgeous, curly, green parsley, two bundles for $1. It seemed too good to resist and so I added it to my basket. When I got home, I closed the bag tightly and tucked it into the crisper, certain that inspiration would strike. My mom makes a wonderful stew with lamb, red kidney beans, lemon juice and lots of parsley. I thought I might make that.

toasted pine nuts

Instead, the parsley sat (isn’t that always the way?). On Sunday morning, I was doing a little refrigerator clean-out in preparation for a Costco trip and rediscovered that parsley, as well as some woefully neglected arugula. I picked through both bundles and gave all the good parts a thorough rinsing. When I was done, I had two cups of tightly packed greens.

into the food processor

Digging through the fridge, I discovered that I had all the rest of the necessary ingredients to make pesto. I toasted pine nuts that I’d been hoarding, and processed them with the parsley and arugula, as well as a couple garlic cloves, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and olive oil.

It took all of ten minutes and felt so good to find a use for the parsley instead of simply consigning it to the trash can. There’s pasta on the horizon this week, as well as farro salad with feta and pesto dressing. It’s also lovely smeared on toast with a dab of ricotta cheese.

Have you rescued any destined for the trash ingredients lately?

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Giveaway: By Hand Magazine and Tote Bag

by hand and bag

One of the reasons I started canning was that I wanted to make something. I wanted to find a way to make something in my own little kitchen that would last longer than the twenty minutes to eat a meal. I wanted to have something I could put on the shelf that was useful, delicious and that I could point to and say, “Look! I made that!”


Hey! That’s me!

It used to be that people made everything for themselves, from the tools that built houses, to butter they spread on their home baked bread, to the sweaters and coats that kept them warm. Knowing how to make, built, and craft was a matter of survival, artistry, and human expression.

cook section

I have no interest in going entire back to the days when every item in a home started from raw materials, but I do believe that we’ve gotten a little bit out of balance when it comes to the making of things. I think the current increased interest in knitting, sewing, quilting, crafting, baking from scratch, and canning is our culture’s response to this imbalance. We want to make things with our own hands.

tomato jam

There have been many books, magazines, blogs, and other forms of media that have appeared over the last few years that celebrate this resurfacing instinct to make. One of my favorites is By Hand (and this is not just because I’m a contributor. I’d have subscribed without ever writing a word for it). It was dreamed up by Susan Gibbs, the woman responsible for Juniper Moon Farm and the legions of adorable lamb photos that festoon the internet.


The magazine is simple and lovely. It is divided into five topic areas: Cook, Grow, Build, Stitch, and Craft. Each section features recipes, instructions, ideas, tips, and stories that will help you tackle a world of projects and dishes. The writing is clear, useful, and friendly and the photography is really beautifully done.

yeasted apple butter bread

Oh this yeasted apple butter bread recipe. I’ve been meaning to make it for months now. I have several jars of apple butter, waiting to be pressed into service. I’m hoping to try it soon and if it’s as good as I think it will be, I’ll post the recipe as a “Preserves in Action” piece.

back cover

You can browse the Fall/Winter issue digitally by clicking here and if it seems like something you want to have in tangible format, their shop can be found here. The Spring edition will be out shortly and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it.

What’s more, I have a little giveaway today. Two lucky winners will each get a By Hand tote bag and a copy of the Fall/Winter issue of the magazine (they’re in the first picture at the top of this post). Here’s what you do to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share one thing you like to make by hand (it doesn’t have to be food related, either. Just something you make). If you’ve not taken the plunge yet, share something you’d like to learn to do.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, March 1, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog over the weekend.
  3. Giveaway open to everyone.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: The By Hand editorial staff gave me the tote bags and the copies of the magazine. They did not pay for inclusion on the blog and my opinions remain entirely my own.