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Sunday, July 25, 2010

This one is in the Top 5.

  It's the weekend and that means canning time here in the Harris house,enjoy this quick pickle.
      Pickled Peppers with Shallots and Thyme...what a tasty condiment.I made this tasty condiment of sorts last fall and was a big hit among my friends. The previous summer my husband and I decided to grow tomatoes and hot peppers. Truth be told,he wanted to grow tomatoes as did I,hot peppers he was not so keen on. It wasn't the growing of the peppers,it was the hotness of the peppers he wasn't so fond of (clever thought,he didn't have to eat them). So here we go,summer moves into "fall" and that's Memphis fall folks. Memphis fall is still 80 degrees and that feels like a dream compared to the 95 degree days we had a month earlier. Memphis hot is a different kind of hot. It's humid,don't-plan-on-a-good-hair day humid. It's the-shade-under-that-huge-tree-over-there,yep it's hot. I was born in September,on a lovely hot day back in 1980 and there was a delightful heat wave going on throughout the Memphis area. My mom told me the day I was born the heat wave broke and it rained. I'm not saying anything,just was a good day (INSERT:sheepish smile).
            So,I digress...Peppers love hot weather...and water. You have to keep them watered and cared for and they will grow you some peppers. We grew poblano peppers ,and jalapeno peppers . The poblano peppers were a little slow-go but once they caught up,honey we had some peppers. The jalapenos were a hit from the beginning. They produced lots of peppers and I was a happy camper. I also grew herbs that summer and had some thyme that was just hanging out doing it's thing. I get my September issue of Bon Appetit in the mail mid-August. I'm flipping threw it and lo and behold there it is, Molly Wizenberg's witty musings and her recipe for Pickled Peppers with Shallots and Thyme . The picture alone got me,vibrant oranges and yellows and greens and then a happy little sprig of thyme just floating there in the sweet and tart vinegar river. I had two thoughts: 1. "Way to go food photographer you've pulled me in!" 2. I have to make these and ha! I have the peppers to do it. So I gathered my peppers and bought some mason jars and went to town. I made this recipe twice that fall and it was a hit. I gave some to my taste-tester friends and then when they approved,I gave some to my in-laws (and bless their hearts,they kept that jar in the fridge just barely full until Christmas so we could enjoy them with the turkey served at about flattery) .
          I have made this recipe twice now this summer.I am growing long thin, red cayenne peppers and some pepper called "Holy Mole." They haven't grown enough yet to include in this recipe,BUT! there is hope. The discovery of the farmers market here in town has provided me with a wide variety of peppers to choose from and our Costco membership has provided me with the mini bell peppers called for in the recipe (if you can't find mini bell peppers,you can do one of two things: 1. we can hop in the car and go to Costco together,my mom loves that place or 2. you can buy a whole bunch of regular size bell peppers,core and seed them and slice them into matchsticks and they will be just as tasty). I am totally hooked on these peppers and I think you will be too. Go ahead make room on your Top 5 list,it's totally worth it.

Pickled Peppers with Shallots and Thyme
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg (discover this website,it's a keeper)
1 lb sweet or mild mini bell peppers,sliced into rings
2 lg shallots,thinly sliced
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBL water
5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large garlic cloves,thinly sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of kosher salt
1. Place the peppers and shallots in a large bowl.
2. Mix vinegar and the next 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan.Bring to a boil over medium heat,stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove brine from heat,carefully pour over peppers and shallots.Cover bowl and let stand for 5 minutes,
3. Uncover,cool to room temperature ,transfer to a quart size jar,pressing down the peppers into the brine (I pack the jar first with pepper then pour the brine over,whatever works for you). Cover and chill for at least 4 hours up to 10 days.
**These will last a while in the least until Christmas. Enjoy.**

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh the things cornmeal can do.

 I love getting presents. I won't admit it,but it's true. I 'm much more a fan of giving presents and with this amazing side I can give and get something pretty delicious. I made this amazing chicken,olive and pine nuts dish for my Aunt Carol's impromptu birthday dinner .I had a flash of genius when planning the menu and went with it. I couldn't figure out what starchy side I wanted to serve the luscious chicken dish on top of and then... wait for it...polenta. Really folks,way to go Jones. The creamy polenta was the ribbon wrapped around the chicken/olive/pine nuts present and what a tasty ribbon it was.
    I go to my trusty copy of How To Cook Everything and went to work. Love this cookbook and Mark Bittman has got it together I tell ya. So I found the version of polenta and wished on a star and hoped for the best. I knew this dinner would be special and the meal was my present to her, geez. The polenta took a bit of whisking and some focus on timing and ta-da! creamy,soft,cheezy cornmeal goodness or better know as Basic Polenta,Version 3. Find a nonstick pot,a whisk and some cornmeal and get to whiskin,it's worth every single bite. Happy Birthday Aunt Carol.

Basic Polenta,Version 3
How To Cook Everything ,page 188
 -Mark Bittman
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup medium-grind cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 TBL butter (optional)
1/4 cup or more freshly grated Parmesan or crumbled
 Gorgonzola cheese (optional)
Snipped fresh chives or parsley for garnish
1. Bring water to a boil in a heavy medium pot,preferably non-stick;salt it and turn the heat to medium. Add the cornmeal a little bit at a time,whisking constantly with a wire whisk. Once you've whisked in all the cornmeal, turn the heat to very low and cover;the mixture should be just bubbling.
2. Uncover and stir with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon for about 1 minute out of every 10. When the polenta is nearly done,about 35-40 minutes,uncover and stir frequently for about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the pepper,optional butter and, cheese and stir until it dissolves. Garnish and serve immediately;passing more cheese at the table if you like.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

these are gonna be good.

                        I can't wait to have one of theses pickles,chilled with a slight crunch. Delish.
               It will sit next to a big cold cut sandwich and some plain lays,going all,not even the baked ones.
                         I'm talking classic summer lunch enjoyed with a good book then a nap. Look out!

 I'm going over the top. Oh and a glass of iced tea and a big ol' chocolate chip cookie. Folks these pickles are summer. Here's some for you:

Really Quick Dill Pickles
The Joy of Pickling,by Linda Ziedrich 
page 86
4 pounds 4-inch pickling cucumbers,blossom ends removed
24 whole black peppercorns
1 garlic head,cloves separated,peeled and chopped
6 small dried hot peppers,such as japones or de arbol
6 dill heads,with sprigs (these amazing folks gave me a ton of dill heads/sprigs to use in this recipe)
2 3/4 cups cider vinegar,white wine vinegar,or distilled white vinegar
3 cups water
1/4 cup pickling salt
1. Halve or quarter the cucumbers lengthwise,if you like or leave them whole. Divide the peppercorns,garlic, and hot pepper ( if you're using them) among 6 pint or 3 quart mason jars. Pack a portion of the cucumbers into each jar along with some dill.
2. In a saucepan,bring the vinegar,water and salt to a boil,stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers,leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps. In a boiling-water bath,process PINT jars for 10 minutes, QUART jars for 15 minutes.
3. Store the pickles for at least 1 month in a cool,dry place before eating them (I'm going for at least 6-8 weeks). After opening a jar,store it in the refrigerator.

Monday, July 12, 2010

browned butter goodness.

   Martha,oh Martha. Martha Stewart and her team of amazing chefs and bakers wrote a cookbook about cookies ,oh all different kinds of cookies. I have made quite a few of the recipes in this cookbook and really have my Top 5 list and these are pretty dang close to the top.You should make them. Oh bliss.

Melt some butter,2 1/2 sticks of butter. 

Melted butter... now wait for it... wait for it. Patience pays off here in gold folks.

(if I could make this photo bigger,really enlarge it more,you see the gold there at the bottom of the pot.) That there at the bottom of that pot is browned bits of butter and the butter in liquid form swirling around it,nutty,buttery heaven. I tell you what. Oh,did I mention toffee.Yep toffee bits are in the mix too,goodness.

Brown-Butter Toffee Blondies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies,page 208
1 1/4 cups(2 1/2 sticks ) unsalted butter,plus more for the pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour,plus more for the pan
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts(optional)
1 cup toffee bits
1. Preheat oven to 350f degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper;butter and flour parchment.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat,cook the butter until it turns golden brown. (THIS WILL TAKE A LITTLE TIME,be patient and cautious,you can quickly burn this butter,so be watchful);remove from heat,and let cool. Whisk together the flour,baking powder, and salt.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer,combine the browned butter and both sugars;stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Attach bowl to mixer;add eggs. Using the paddle attachment,beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy,about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla,and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture,walnuts and toffee bits. Stir until thoroughly combined, and pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean,35 - 40 minutes (DO NOT OVERBAKE-these may look under baked when they come out of the oven,but they will harden up). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before turing out of the pan onto a cutting board. Peel off parchment paper;cut blondies into squares. Blondies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pleasant weekend,even nicer break!

   So I went out of town this not Tahiti (don't I wish),but a place even better. My in-laws live outside Tupelo,Mississippi in a small town called Plantersville .They have a nice house on a really big hill,surrounded by trees,nature and calm. I knew when I visited there for the first time,I had to come back. We had a really great time visiting with family and well I wanted to show off a little. Enjoy!
  This is a view from their back door. Across the driveway,that's my father-in-law's garden,gosh that's pretty.
    Tomatoes from the Harris Family Garden,those folks have some fine tomatoes!
  I also got a chance to visit with Aunt Joan,master gardener extraordinaire!  She grows grapes,among other things...ain't they pretty!
          And cucumbers...isn't that a lovely pot there in the background too,I thought so.
                       This sign should be in half the pots in my garden,her garden is it Aunt Joan.
And when I was walking around the Harris Vegetable Garden,I found these beautiful squash blossoms and well they were delish. I mean really...these are going to become an annual summer treat. Well here we are at the end of my weekend-in-review. I hope you have enjoyed all the delightful photos. Oh by the way,if you drive through Tupelo,find Plantersville and enjoy,it's a lovely place. (I think,but I'm partial.)