Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles, Quick & Easy

I leave pickle prep to the pros, to friends who excel at this tricky endeavor or turn to commercial brands that we like. Not so with pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, dilled beans, pickled peppers, even pickled eggs - they don’t count. Those are all easy, forgiving items that are hard to mess up, unlike real pickles made from cucumbers where it’s all about the crunch and the flavor that comes from sitting around for weeks or months… plus a little magic I think.

Life changed when I found Quick Pickles: easy recipes with bigflavor by Schlesinger, Willoughby and George. Their recommended pre-salting technique all but guarantees the requisite crunch, and the flavor of my very first batch of Bread-and-Butter Pickles convinced me that these three fellows are indeed Pickle Wizards.

The boat galley was short a few ingredients for the first try, turmeric for example, so I used a packaged pickling spice blend and added a mild yellow curry as a substitute for the turmeric. The resulting pickles were such a hit that this first small batch disappeared in less than a day. The three-step recipe is easy peasy:
  1. Salt some sliced cukes and onions and chill for an hour or two.  
  2. Prepare the brine on stovetop or in the microwave.
  3. Pour the hot brine over the drained and rinsed pickles and let sit until cooled to room temperature.
That’s it, 1-2-3, pickle magic. It's just that easy.

Quick Bread and Butter Pickles 
(the test batch)
 Adapted from “Your Classic Bread-and-Butter Pickles”, in Quick Pickles by Schlesinger, Willoughby and George, 2001

6 small pickling cucumbers (less than 5 inches long)
1 medium Walla Walla sweet onion
1 tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used garam masala)
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar

Trim both ends of the cucumbers, peel the onion and cut both into ¾ inch rounds. Add the cukes and onions to a glass jar or non-reactive bowl; toss them with the salt, cover and hold in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Drain, rinse well and drain again, then set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a microwaveable container and bring to a boil. Remove to stir and dissolve the brown sugar. Reheat to return to a boil, and then pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions. The cucumbers should be covered or slightly afloat, if not add more heated vinegar and brown sugar using the same proportions.

Allow to cool to room temperature; then cover and refrigerate. Sample a few as soon as they are cool, but the authors note that the flavor will deepen if you let them sit overnight. (We couldn’t wait and consumed them all before 24 hours passed.) The book promises they will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a month or more. Betcha can't eat just one. (grin)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stir-Fry Broccoli Salad

After relaxing at our Green Island anchorage it was time to move on. We pulled anchor at first light and cruised north to Kisameet, a favorite bay on Fitzhugh Sound. It wasn’t far, about 24 nautical miles, but would be a convenient base location for some fishing expeditions. M/V Jericho travelled along with us, pausing en route to fish for halibut while we motored on and anchored.   My planned dinner menu included a simple one-pot stir-fry of  Broccoli Pork served over a mound of herb and onion rice; nothing special, just a quick dinner for the two of us. That plan disappeared when Jerry and Tanya returned with a nice halibut and an invitation to join them for a Sweet & Sour Halibut dinner. Super fresh fish and Tanya’s delicious home cooking? The response was a fast “Yes, thank you!”

My stir-fry entrée changed instead into an accompanying side of Broccoli Stir-Fry Salad. Served warm it’s a vegetable side dish and served at room temperature it is more of a salad. Either way it’s a winner. Last night it teamed nicely with Tanya’s delicious halibut entrée. Thanks to Tanya, for dinner and the extra halibut filet to take home. Hmmmm, I see Halibut Ceviche Tacos coming up soon.

Stir-Fried Broccoli Salad
Serves 4

1 large head broccoli, stems cut in 3/4” chunks, tops separated into bite-sized pieces
3 Tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed & unpeeled
1 small sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui) sliced thin stem to tip

1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Garnish: sesame seeds and/or grated or slivered lemon zest

1.   Heat oil in large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry stem pieces and garlic for 30 seconds. Add flowerets and onion; cook for 1 minute.

2.   Sprinkle on the sugar and water; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and cook till dry.

3.   Add soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil all at once. Stir quickly and turn into a serving dish. Discard the garlic cloves. Garnish with sesame seeds and lemon zest.

Serve warm as a vegetable or at room temperature as a salad. It’s an easy and tasty accompaniment to many entrees, Asian or not. For a heartier salad add peanuts or cashews, scallions, sliced cooked chicken breast, water chestnut slivers, etc.

Note: Chunk the stems into fork-sized pieces, but don’t worry about uniformity. Use a vegetable peeler on the fat stem before you cut it small if it’s really woody or a late season harvest.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Storage Challenges

A Not-Quite Wordless Wednesday Post

Cruising in northern B.C. means limited access to wi-fi and the internet for a while, so my posts will be intermittent. Please come by occasionally to see where we're at and what's cooking in the galley. Meanwhile, here's a look at July provisioning in Campbell River, and the accompanying storage challenges. Where did I put everything in those nine big boxes of food?

The fridge is loaded when we leave the dock.

One fruit basket of mango and citrus travels handily on the counter.

Mint adds zing to many dishes; it roots easily, holds well and travels in the sink when seas are rough.

Guacamole anyone?

Basil in a pot substitutes for a garden on board.

Overflow storage in the coolest spot on board... the counter in the guest head.

Freezer drawer #1 holds meats, cheeses, butter and tortillas today, and seafood in future weeks.

Freezer drawer #2 holds more meat, frozen vegetables and miscellaneous "stuff" like wontons and stir fry noodles.

And that's just the fresh stuff. Staples and dry goods fill up three cabinets above the galley bar...

...and juice, pop crackers and cereal are corralled in two sturdy cubes that double as seats.

One cabinet in the salon holds nuts and candy, games, baking trays, and other miscellany. Can't find something? check this cabinet first.

This tall skinny cabinet in our stateroom could hold tee shirts, sweatshirts, and the like. Instead it has turned into a small pantry. Below this cabinet, under a bench seat, a deep locker extends four feet forward and is packed with lightweight items like pasta and popcorn. 

I may have overdone the provisioning again, just maybe, but I'm ready for potlucks, happy hours and impromptu happenings. 

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