Jars: Pickled Onions and Roasted Bell Peppers

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We bought jars. Lots of them. And empty jars make me sad, so last week I decided to pickle some onions and fill up jars. While at the store, I discovered bell peppers on sale, and thought why not? It's time to roast bell peppers.

The pickled onions recipe came from Keller's Ad Hoc. I had planned to pickle a variety of vegetables, but the other vegetables needed champagne vinegar. And after several attempts to find  large quantities of inexpensive champagne vinegar without success, I thought I would hold off, and stick to the onions.

Today, I finally tasted the onions, which I had as a topping on my lunch salad. They were delicious. Sweet and tangy, with a bit of crunch. I'm a fan.
I love roasted bell peppers, they are sweet and silky. But unlike with the onions, where I got three jars out of three onions, all the peppers below, only made up one jar. So far, we have used them in sandwiches, frittatas, over salads, and there's still a little left in the jar. I wish there was more!

These couldn't be simpler to prepare. Roast the peppers. Grill is a lot faster than doing it indoors, but either works. Steam them in a bag or under a bowl, for easy peeling. Peel, discard the seeds, and slice. Pour olive oil on top and enjoy these sweet and delicious peppers. Typically I use a couple of peppers only, so there's never much left over for a jar, and even this time, they are disappearing fast. But it's a good idea if you are spending the time roasting and peeling, to make a large batch and keep it in the fridge.
Pickled Red Onions
from Ad Hoc

2 large red onions (about 1 1/4 lbs each)
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1) Peel and slice  your onions into 1/8-inch-thick slices, cutting with the grain. Pack the onions into jars. There might be some leftover, don't worry, set aside.
2) Combine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour the hot vinegar over the onions. Once the onions begin to wilt, you add any of your leftover onions at this point.
3) Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to a month.

Lebanese-Style Eggplant, and Mexican-Style Leftovers

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This is the second time I've made this recipe. And I made one mistake. I didn't check my previous posting before starting. Otherwise I would have remembered that you get a lot of stuffing here. Much more than you'd think. And definitely more than what the recipe says. I ended up stuffing 15 baby eggplants, two squashes, and the next day (after another trip to the store), three chiles and two more squashes. All this with a pound of meat.

The recipe is fun to make, and although I had planned to, I didn't really make any changes this time around, besides substituting shallots for onions and increasing the herbs and spices. However, it did taste better than what I recall. The pine nuts, which I was debating to exclude after a couple of unsuccessful tries of finding some without a trip to Whole Foods, really added a nice touch. Sometimes, you just have to give in, and spend an arm and a leg at Whole Foods. I don't understand who can afford to shop there on a regular basis. When I leave their stores, I always feel swindled. But don't skip the pine nuts.

The best part was I got to experiment with the leftover meat the next evening by stuffing some Anaheim chiles, and Mexincan squash and simmering them in my roasted tomatillo sauce, which I had prepared a large batch of a week ago.
I really enjoyed the leftover tomatillo version, and will need to play with the spices to bring out some different flavors. Below is the original recipe.
Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant
from Gourmet

6 (5- to 6-inch long) bambino (also called Baby Bell) eggplants (about 6 oz each)  
1/2 cup long-grain or jasmine rice  
1/4 cup olive oil  
3 tablespoons pine nuts  
1 large onion, finely chopped  
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped  
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth  
1 (14 1/2-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice  
3/4 lb ground lamb or beef chuck (not lean)  
1 teaspoon ground allspice  
1/2 lemon  
3 tablespoons chopped flat-lef parsley
1) Hollow out each eggplant with a melon-ball cutter, working from bottom end and leaving about 1/3 inch eggplant flesh along interior walls.
2) Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water until water runs clear. Drain well.
3) Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry pine nuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. 
4) Sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup onion mixture to bowl with pine nuts. Add stock, tomatoes, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper to skillet and simmer, uncovered, while stuffing eggplant.
5) Add rice, meat, allspice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to bowl with onion mixture and mix well with your hands.
6) Stuff eggplant with meat mixture, being careful not to pack tightly (rice will expand during cooking). Transfer stuffed eggplants to skillet with tomato sauce and simmer, covered, carefully turning once, until rice is cooked through, 50 minutes to 1 hour (cut 1 in half to test).
7) If sauce is watery, transfer eggplant to a plate and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes, then adjust seasoning if necessary. Return stuffed eggplant to sauce. Squeeze lemon over dish and sprinkle with parsley before serving.


Cauliflower and Cilantro Soup

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Apparently there are people out there who don't like cilantro. I keep hearing about them. But, I have yet to meet one. I am guessing if any of my friends are cilantro haters, they probably are too afraid to come out. I guess I can be a little judgmental or something. It's mostly because I don't get how one can hate an herb that makes tacos, guacamole, Vietnamese soups and Indian curries so delicious.

I like cilantro so much, I recently purchased a little cookbook from my library store called. . . Cilantro. It has neat recipes like baked tuna with cilantro crust, lamb and cilantro filo pie, hot cilantro shrimp, and other delicious-looking meals.

So far, I have tried one recipe from this amazing book and that's been this soup. I picked this recipe because I had both cauliflower and cilantro in my fridge. When I initially skimmed the page and saw "garnish with fresh cilantro" I thought, oh shoot, I hope that's not what all these recipes are going to end with. Make soup, garnish with cilantro. Make ragout, garnish with cilantro. Bake tuna, garnish with cilantro. I didn't want to face the possibility I spent my hard-earned dollar on a cookbook telling me to garnish dishes with cilantro. It turned out, I didn't. This books seems legit. And this soup was super tasty. Upon trying it, I quickly declared, "I would make this again."
Cauliflower and Cilantro Soup
from Cilantro, published by Southwater
Serves 4-6
1 tbsp sunflower oil (I used grape seed)
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 small cauliflower head, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp water
1 garlic clove, crushed (I used 3)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp curry powder (this was my addition)
1 tsp cumin seeds (I added a little more)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander (CILANTRO!)
4 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken)
salt and pepper
yogurt or sour cream, for garnish
fresh cilantro, for garnish

1) Heat oil in a large saucepan and add potato, cauliflower and onion. Toss to coat vegetables with oil, and drizzle three tablespoons of water to the pan. Heat until bubbling, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
2) Stir in garlic, ginger, seeds and spices. Cook for about two minutes, stirring.
3) Add stock, and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4) At this point, I pulled out my immersion blender and blended the soup.
5) Garnish with sour cream and fresh cilantro and serve.


Red Lentil Soup with Crispy Ginger

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This is another recipe I found recently in my big binder of "must try someday" recipes. I love lentils, but I kind of forget about them. Growing up, my parents made a great lentil salad. They cut up a bunch of toppings, and each of us got to customize our plates with tomatoes, parsley, bell peppers, olive oil, etc. It was fun.

But, back to the soup. A few things in the recipe caught my attention -- the spices and use of ginger. I love curry powder in soups, and frying ginger (for the topping) sounded interesting. The original recipe came from Martha Steward's Everyday Food, and I made only a couple of changes. I increased the spices and served it with a dollop of sour cream instead of yogurt. I would also recommend cooking this down, without the lid, after pureeing. The soup thickened, and the flavors really developed after an additional 30 minutes. If you don't have time to cook it down, use less water.
Red Lentil Soup with Crispy Ginger
Original recipe from Everyday Food
Serves 6 

For the Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (3-inch piece)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used more)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I used more)
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
4 cups water (use less unless you have time to cook it down)
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt, for serving (or sour cream)

For the Fried Ginger:
2 teaspoons canola or peanut oil
1 piece (about 5 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin strips (about 1/8 by 2 inches)
1) In a large, heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and curry powder; cook, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pot with a wooden spoon, until onion is soft and light golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add tomatoes. Cook about 5 minutes.
2) Stir lentils, chicken stock, the water, and bay leaf into pot; raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add salt; season with pepper. Remove from heat. Let stand about 10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, make fried ginger: In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger in a single layer; cook, stirring constantly, until strips begin to turn crisp and deep golden, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4) Remove bay leaf from pot, and discard. Using an immersion or regular blender, puree soup until completely smooth. Return soup to low heat until warmed through.
5) Bring soup back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes
6) Garnish each bowl with yogurt/sour cream and ginger strips and serve.


Carrot and Radish Salad

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I grew up with this salad. It's one of the staple salads my mom makes. And she makes it well. A very simple, yet delicious combination. For some reason, maybe because she makes it so often, I've never made it at home. That is until we hosted our first vegetarian dinner, where I made my favorite meatless side dishes. This one made the cut.
There's not much of a recipe here. You want to have equal parts of carrot and radish. Daikons tend to be watery, so after grating, I lightly salted the radish and let it drain for about 20 minutes. Then, I squeezed the excess moisture out and combined it with the carrots. The dressing is even easier. Equal parts of mayo and sour cream. For two carrots and one medium radish, I used about two large spoonfuls of each. Start with less, you can always add more. I seasoned with salt, and refrigerated it for a couple of hours before serving.

I enjoy this salad especially with pilaf and barbecue meats, but it was good without those things as well.