Spicy Dill Pickles

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This is more of my type of pickle. It tastes of dill and garlic. There's a little bit of spiciness, but not much. I did use a pretty small chili though. Where I went wrong is I used too much vinegar, and not enough water (I ran out of room!) so they are a bit tangy, but still delicious.

I let these sit in the fridge overnight, and we had them at brunch on Sunday (more on brunch to come soon!).

Last night we bought 3 gallons of vinegar, so I will be pickling again soon. Quick pickling that is. At this time, that's all I have patience for.

Spicy Dill Quick Pickles

Vegetables (you will need to precook some of the tougher vegetables)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 large garlic cloves, halved
4 to 6 long red or green hot chiles, halved lengthwise
16 dill sprigs

1) Pack vegetables into 2 clean 1-quart glass jars.
2) In another jar, combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, coriander and garlic. Shake until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 2 cups of water and pour the brine over the vegetables.
3)Tuck the chiles and dill between the vegetables. Add enough water to keep the vegetables submerged.
4) Close the jars and refrigerate overnight or for up to 1 month.


Swiss Chard with Bacon

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This recipe is so easy to make, you'd be a fool not to try it. Besides, it got the husband to admit he likes chard. Oh, the magic of bacon.
Saute the bacon first, until it's nice and crispy. Then add the chopped chard stems, and lots of sliced garlic. Cook for about five or so minutes, and add the chard leaves. Pour about a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until chard has wilted (but not to much, you don't want it overcooked). If needed, add a little bit of water for additional moisture; most of the time, you won't need it. Uncover and make sure the liquid evaporates. And that's it.  
This made for a great side dish, and a delicous breakfast the next morning.

Fresh- Pickled Vegetables, Sweet and Tangy Style

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For my birthday, a friend gave me Alice Waters's "The Art of Simple Food." The book looks all old-timey, with beautiful sketches. But also kind of intimidating. Sketches always scare me a bit. Well, after months of being scared, I told myself to man up, and look through it. I did, and it was great. The fresh-pickled vegetables recipe caught my eye, especially as I was plotting on yet another way to get rid of some turnips. Oh, the turnips.
One thing I noticed right away was how little salt this recipe called for. I didn't like that one bit, so I tripled the amount. There were a few ingredients on the list that surprised me, but that's why the recipe stood out in first place, so I went for it.
The verdict? These pickles reminded me of the Momofuku pickle jar we recently had on our NYC trip. They were tasty, but not necessarily the type of pickles I crave. I'm more of a dill and garlic kind of gal. And these were sweet and tangy. But the two jars were gone within a week, and I would definitely make these again. What I really liked is that these were ready to go in about three hours and you can vary this recipe with almost any vegetable. In addition to turnips, I used green beans and carrots. In short, Alice Waters did not disappoint.
Fresh-Pickled Vegetables
(The Art of Simple Food)

For 3 1/2 cups of pickling brine, combine and bring to a boil:

1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 3/4 cups water
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 bay leaf (I used a whole one)
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 dried cayenne pepper or a pinch of dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
2 whole cloves
1 garlic clove (I used like 5)
a big pinch of salt (this baffled me, so I used 3 tbsp)

Cook your vegetables in the brine. Cook each vegetable separately, until cooked through, but still crisp, and set aside to cool. Once the vegetables and brine are cooked, transfer both to jar, cover and and refrigerate.

These will keep in the fridge for a week.

Harvest Vegetable Soup, with Sausage

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The turnips, they keep coming. And I'm running out of patience with them. With the last batch, I decided to make a chunky vegetable soup. I didn't think much of it, as I used whatever we had in the fridge - spicy Italian sausage, squash, chard, celery, carrots, and a potato.
I browned the sausage first. Then added garlic and the harder vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. After five or so minutes, I added the rest of the veggies and sauteed everything for five more minutes. At this time I added some oregano, a couple of bay leaves and vegetable stock.
After it came to a boil, I simmered the soup for 30 or so minutes. About 15 minutes in, I tried a spoonful and all I tasted was bitter turnips, so I kept cooking, hoping I would not have to throw this pot of soup out. But after 30 minutes, the turnips mellowed out, and tasted rather delicious. The sausage added a nice spiciness to the broth as well. During the last few minutes I added the chopped chard, and the soup came together.
The husband and I were equally surprised at how delicious the soup tasted. It was seriously good. Although this only made him bring more turnips home the following weekend.


In My Defense: Target Box Wine, The True Story

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Dear Beloved Readers,
I've toyed with the idea of having the occasional guest blogger for some time. But neither a worthy topic nor a worthy "guest" had come along. That is until now. Until a gchat arguement about box wine warranted a wider audience. So, I asked my friend to defend her box wine love in post form for you all to enjoy. And despite her general lack of follow-through, she got right to it. As I mentioned above, this is a worthy cause that needs immediate attention!


For my first guest contribution to KK's Housewife Fantasies blog, I thought I would start by noting that my own housewife fantasy resembles this:
Now as some of you may know, I am a single lady. I would like to think that I fall somewhere in between Cathy of the same named comic stip and Carrie Bradshaw. Somewhere in there. And as a single lady, I tend to use a lot of tupperware to hold leftovers or throw away food that goes bad because I end up eating out or making a sandwich. But when I do make myself a fab meal (likely a recipe from this fine blog) I constantly find myself swallowing down a glass of wine with dinner that tasted like it had seen better days -- probably before it had spent a month in my fridge. How can a single lady have a nice glass of wine at her party of one dinner and not feel obligated to drink the entire bottle and feel like a wino?

Enter the best thing ever: Target. Box. Wine.

This is not your mother's box wine. This wine is not bad. This wine is even kind of okay. This wine is definitely worth $16 for the equivalent of 4 bottles. With the largest cube coming in at about a foot by a foot, it fits nicely in the fridge (around tupperware) and comes in a number of varietals, red and white. There is also a smaller 2-bottle box and individual serving 4-packs (no glasses needed, and therefore no glasses to wash!)

And even if you are not a stylish single lady dining solo, the boxes are great for picnics, Hollywood Bowl outings, swimming holes that don't allow glass, and rowdy parties where drunk girls might drop things. Like wine glasses.

Minted Lemonade

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It feels like summer, right? It would feel more like summer if we weren't still on the market, with our house spotless and sterile. All this cleanliness is getting even to me. How are we going to have air-conditioned, in-door picnics on our living room rug while trying to sell? No one is going to fall in love with the condo with us sprawled out, the place stinking of cheese and salami, and empty champagne bottles around. Things need to pick up. Quick!

Back to the point though. Summer. Summer means lemonade. I've never made lemonade. I'm not sure why, but most citrus drinks do not appeal to me. I'll drink them with brunch maybe. But mostly because they come as part of my cocktail.

But we had lemons. Lots of them. And mint. So the husband suggested a Bobby Flay recipe. I was a little hesitant until reading this review, "this is pretty sweet not 2 sugary but it is so wicked and sick." How could you argue with that? Wicked and sick is what I want my lemonade to be. So I said sure, but soon learned it's hard work squeezing lemons! However, after all the work was done, the lemonade sure tasted good with our lunch out on the patio. It really was pretty delicious, with the mint being a nice touch.
2 cups sugar
6 cups water
2 cups fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mint leaves

To make simple syrup: Place 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved and let cool. Place lemon juice in a large pitcher, add remaining 4 cups water and 1 cup of the simple syrup or more to taste. Stir in mint leaves and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over ice.


Deep Dark Chocolate Ice Cream - It's Intense

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My plan for Saturday was simple. Sleep in. Wake up and make an easy ice cream. Eat it.

But instead, before I had a chance to change out of my pajamas, actually, before I had a chance to sleep in, I was told our friend was coming over. As soon as he entered, the husband began lobbying against my simple ice cream recipe. You see, we received an ice cream machine for Christmas, and haven't used it yet. For my first ice cream, I wanted to make an easy recipe which required minimal effort. Something quick.

But, with two against one, I was out-voted, and so we all embarked on making the Deep Dark Chocolate Ice Cream recipe. The one that took us about 4 hours, because of all the waiting and chilling involved. The ice cream that came about in the end was so intensely rich, it tasted like a cold chocolate bar, and no one was able to eat more than a couple of spoonfuls.

Last night, I tried to eat the ice cream again. And it was delicious, there's no doubt that the flavors are there, but again, I couldn't consume more than two tablespoons. It made me sad, as I enjoy eating ice cream by the pound.


Creamy Turnip Soup

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The husband has all these "remote" gardens. One at his parents, one at his aunt's, another one at his dad's friend's house. I can barely keep track. The one crop that he keeps bringing home from each of his harvest days, is turnips. Lots of them.

I don't really care for turnips. I mean, I like them fine, once in a while, but seeing all these turnips in my fridge makes me nervous. What do you make with turnips? I told the husband to put them to use. So he made a soup.

It was a decent soup. I'm glad I convinced him to add carrots and celery as well. Otherwise it would have been too turnipy. And it didn't hurt that we started with frying up some bacon, then using the grease for the onions. You can't go wrong with bacon crisps on your soup.
Creamy Turnip Soup
Rough recipe

3 large turnips, cut into strips
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
2-3 spring of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 strips of bacon, sliced
vegetable stock, 4-5 cups

1) Saute the bacon until crisp, and set aside.
2) Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.
3) Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.
4) Puree and serve with bacon crisps.

Squash and Potato Torte

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So I've made this torte once before, it's somewhere on here. But I thought it needed improving. It was delicious, but a bit too oily. I decided to make it again, with the husband's squash harvest, and a little more care, so I could take it to a friend's birthday party.

Did it turn out better? Yes. I adjusted the recipe (below) so that I only drizzled oil over the potatoes, not every layer. But to be honest, I have no idea how much squash or potatoes I actually used. I just eye-balled it, and ended up with one pan (not two) of three layers of potatoes and two layers of the yellow and green squash. I pre-cooked it at home, with the foil on, then finished it at the party.

It smelled so delicious on the ride over, the husband and I contemplated of stopping at a park for an impromptu picnic. I didn't tell anyone I was making this dish, so we assumed it wouldn't be missed. But, we were good, and running late, so we didn't make the stop. 

The next day, with plenty of squash left over, I decided to make this torte again. And what a mistake that was. I got greedy. I thought I could build a massive torte, with five layers of potatoes, and many more of squash. I cooked it. And cooked it. Then I cooked it some more. Then we went out for a beer, while the torte still cooked. Then we came home, and the monster I had created was still not cooked! It was a sad day, with no dinner.

Squash and Potato Torte
Bon Apetit
(This is the original, unaltered recipe. I've always made one torte, not two.)

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
12 ounces yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
6 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans. Set aside 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss remaining green onions, cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.

Layer 1/6 of potatoes in concentric circles in bottom of 1 prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Layer 1/4 of squash in concentric circles atop potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Repeat with 1/6 of potatoes, then 1/4 of squash and 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Top with 1/6 of potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture and press gently to flatten. Repeat procedure with second cake pan and remaining potatoes, squash, oil, and cheese mixture.

Cover pans with foil. Bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until tortes begin to brown and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes longer. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool. Cover with foil and chill. Rewarm, covered with foil, in 350°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.)

Cut each torte into wedges. Sprinkle wedges with 1/4 cup green onions; serve.