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Monday, May 19, 2008

Anticlimatic

Well, the results are in and the Fluer de Sel Caramel wasn't the ice-cream orgasm I thought it would be (I finally found a secluded grocery where the public isn't up to speed), BUT, there's something else that took the trophy. Oh sure, it was caramel-y and chocolate-y and creamy-y in all the right places, but I'm a cinnamon girl at heart.

All you ice-cream divas, listen up! The new Haagen Dazs "Cinnamon Dulce de Leche" is the next Top Model as far as ice-cream is concerned. This stuff is literally crammed with creamy pockets of cinnamon caramel! I actually think the texture was CREAMIER than the Fluer de Sel and I could definitely see this loverliness being pals with a slice of apple pie over the winter holidays. Sigh.

Be still my heart.

To All My Pickle Peeps

O.k., I know pickle season is just over the horizon for all my northern friends, so I wanted to give you heads up on a fan-friggin-tastic pickle recipe. Think of me as your "pickle research department" each season, as we start our canning & preserving months ahead from the rest of the country.

I tried a new recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and it is OMG, delicious! In fact, I loved it so much that I sent hubby back to the cuke people to get more cukes JUST for this recipe! I knew 8 jars weren't going to last us for the rest of the year.

They're lemony and sweet, without being over-cloyingly brine-y. YUM! You must try this recipe this season, plus, they are fabulously beautiful to look at in their jars!

Lemon Cucumber Pickles
Recipe Source: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes 6-8 pint jars

14 cups sliced pickling cukes (chip size 1/2 inch thick)
4 red bell peppers, seeded & thinly sliced (I used 3)
2 tsp pickling salt
7-9 bay leaves, divided
1 T whole, black peppercorns
1 tsp allspice
1 1/3 cups white vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 lemon sliced
6-8 cloves garlic

Prepare jars and lids for canning. Tie one bay leaf, pepper corns, and allspice in a square of cheesecloth, or place inside a metal tea ball like I did. In a large, stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and spice bag. Bring to a boil over med-high and boil gently for 7 minutes or until spices have infused in the liquid.

Place 1 lemon slice, 1 clove of garlic, and one bay leaf in each jar. Pack jars with cuke slices and pepper. Ladle hot brine over vegetables, giving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes. Let pickles marinate for two weeks before eating. Try not to eat a whole jar in one sitting!

**Note: I always make double the amount of brine required, as it seems I always need more than the recipe calls for.

**Note: You can add Pickle Crisp to make the pickles crisper - 3/4 tsp per jar or 1 1/2 tsp per quart.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Curse That Lindsey!

I have nothing new to say today except curse that **Lindsey over at Lindsey's Luscious! Ever since she mentioned the new Haagen-Dazs Reserve "Fleur De Sel Caramel" ice-cream, I've been obsessed with wanting it! And I can't find it!

I've been to no less than 4 groceries looking for the stuff, and I'm greeted everytime with an empty ice-cream slot. I know the stores carry them; I see the label where it is SUPPOSED to be, but...le sigh. I guess everyone else has discovered it too!

No rest for the wicked or weary!

**Lindsey is really a lovely, talented, person with a good sense of humor. I would never wish anything negative on her!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Martha Monday Challenge

While surfing around on some of my favorite foodie sites, I happened to come across the food blogging events page at Is My Blog Burning. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with a food blogging event, it is basically a group of people who agree to research a recipe, topic, or category of food, and then write about it by a specific deadline. This usually entails cooking something you’ve chosen (or chosen by someone else), and of course, eating!

This is fairly new to me; however, I guess I’ve been doing this informally on this blog since day one. But I couldn’t possibly turn down Mimi on the Move and her request (challenge?) to whip up something from Martha Stewart herself. So I am totally, like, bring it!

You’re So Farro Away

I’ve been around food…well all my life. My mother used to say that I was born at 11:48 a.m., just in time for lunch. So, when something new crosses my plate, it’s an exciting time for me.

The current issue of Martha Stewart Living is chock-a-block with the usual crafty, homekeeping fare, except something new caught me by surprise. Upon turning to the What’s for Dinner section, I spotted a recipe for Farro and Porcini Risotto. Now, I thought I was pretty hip with new food trends, but farro was something I’ve never heard of. I made a mental note to Google it as soon as possible.

From what I’ve learned, farro has a pretty glorious history as a “grain of the legions”. It was “the original grain from which all others derive” and was once as common as spaghetti is today. But, through the times, it has whittled its popularity down to primarily Italian dishes and the occasional French haute cuisine. The organic food movement has brought renewed interest in farro, and I was extremely curious to try it.
Of course, my regular grocery didn’t carry farro, in fact, no one knew what it was, so off we went to Whole Foods grocery. Even in this organic and raw food mecca, there were only 3 lonely 16 oz. bags of farro to be found. And we looked hard for those 3 bags! Martha’a recipe called for 2 cups of farro, so we purchased two 16 oz. bags…just in case. Next, were the dried porcini mushrooms, which ended costing a small mortgage, but again, we’re talking about Whole Foods grocery. The mushrooms weren’t easy to find either. So far, Martha’s recipe was scoring negative points for convenience and availability.

Once home, I easily made the pesto sauce called for in the recipe. I substituted pecans for walnuts because, well, I don’t like walnuts and we had pecans. I used fresh basil from my garden and parsley purchased from the store. I set the pesto aside and started on the main dish. So farro, so good!

I mixed the farro with some white wine, chicken broth, and the dried porcinis, brought it to a boil and waited. Now, I did notice one important thing missing in this recipe. The Standard Rule of Engagement for any risotto making process is to add warm/hot stock to the risotto while it’s cooking. The pasta needs to absorb the liquid slowly, and adding a cold stock results in hard, undercooked risotto. I figured the farro probably would react in the same way so, I heated up my chicken broth and added half a cup at a time. It worked like a charm. Once the farro had absorbed all the liquid, it was done. I added the pesto and then finished with a few gusty peels of Romano (not parmesan…my preference) cheese.

The farro tasted earthy and nutty, with a splash of green from the basil and parsley. It was chewy and creamy in all the right places. The porcinis added a smokey, woody flavor and the grated cheese gave it a salty depth. This dish is not meant for the light-hearted though; it’s hearty and rustic and would do best with any red meat, game, or harvest vegetables. It’s definitely not springtime fare.

Overall, we enjoyed this dish very much and I probably will make it again if I’m in the mood for something a little exotic. Its biggest fault is the availability and price for the ingredients. Not everyone can go to or even afford specialty markets, but then again, only the best for Martha!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Casa de Pickle

May is a very special time for us here at Just the Right Size. The month of May brings us fresher-than-fresh Kirby cucumbers and the sweetest Florida corn you’ve ever eaten. And every May, hubby and I make our annual trek out to the boonies in order to stock up on both: first for making pickles and the latter for freezing or making corn relish, soups, corn bread, corn pudding…well, you get the picture.

The farm we buy from is only open for the month of May; the rest of the year it is closed. It grows a large proportion of the early cukes for Big Pickle (i.e. Claussen) and they are just as gorgeous as can be. But every May, hubby and I always overestimate the amount of cukes we need and end up to our elbows in cukes or pickles. Usually both.


Last year, I tried to make a highly coveted pickle recipe from one of the Cooking Forum ladies, which called for fermenting the cukes for several days via pouring fresh boiling water over them every day, then proceeding with a brine soaking, then canning. In all, it takes about ten days total (at least it seemed).

Did I mention that May in Florida also brings temperatures in the 90s too? It seems that fermenting pickles in temperatures over 70 degrees is a bad idea. By the third day, I was greeted with a smell that can only be described as rotting cukes and road kill. And since I didn’t feel like turning up the AC to make my house a meat locker (and paying the subsequent electric bill), fermented pickles and sauerkraut will have to wait.

Ahem.

So, this year, we continued our tradition of getting way too many cukes and trying our hand at refrigerator pickles. Only this year, I am trying to copycat Boar’s Head Zesty Bread and Butter Chips. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these pickles! I could easily eat a whole jar in one day! The special ingredient that takes these pickles over the edge is the huge amount of horseradish. So far, we have a dozen quarts and a dozen pints made, but are running out of room (again).

Anyone want some fresh cukes?
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