Gluten Free Fried Green Tomatoes

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See that fried green tomato poking out? Yep….I ate the other ones too fast to take a pic! Yeah…they’re that good!

I love, love, love me some fried green tomatoes.  You can find green tomatoes all summer long, but especially in the spring. What a testament to not wasting food….or is it a nod to Impatience? After all, green tomatoes will turn red given the chance. They’re simply the unripe versions of their ruby-red brethren.  In fact, I have a red tomato, once green, sitting on my windowsill at this very moment.  The difference between a red and green tomato is the green is firm and tart. They make a great sandwich, a fantastic pickled relish, and a great accoutrement to fried eggs and pimento cheese.  Usually you find them coated in wheat flour or corn flour or a combination of both.  I set out to find a version that would let me ‘get my eat on’ without wheat or corn. I tried several different substitutes–almond flour, rice flour, quinoa flour, and coconut flour.  I thought almond flour would come out on top since it had performed well for me with making a crust for tomato pie, but no such luck. Quinoa flour worked like a dream–fried up nice, stuck to the tomato, and didn’t leave a huge aftertaste.  Rice flour didn’t stick and coconut flour tasted terrible. If you don’t have a wheat or corn issue, feel free to use 1/2 wheat flour and 1/2 corn meal.  So here ya go, fried green tomatoes…gluten-free!

  • Green tomatoes, as many as you need, 2 or 4 slices per person
  • Quinoa flour
  • 2 eggs, scrambled/whipped
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toppings–red pepper chutney, fried eggs, pulled pork, blue crab, hollandaise, remoulade sauce, etc.

Wash, dry, and slice your tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Melt coconut oil in pan at medium high heat (Mama’s cast iron works well).  Dip tomato slices in egg, dredge in quinoa flour. Place in hot oil and fry until underside is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and fry again until opposite side is golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel-lined plate. Serve with your choice of accoutrement–my favorite is a fried egg and remoulade or jalapeno pimento cheese and pulled pork.

Noodle-less Lasagna

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It is possible–tasty and noodle-less!!

I mostly gave up all wheat and grain products about 3 years ago (um, you still need to celebrate birthdays people!).  For the most part, I haven’t looked back because I feel so much better.  It’s pretty easy to find substitutes for crackers (cucumber rounds, red peppers, vegetable crackers), but living without pasta can get a bit difficult.  I found ways to use vegetables for spaghetti, but often missed a big ol’ pile of lasagna. That is until I used butternut squash as the lasagna noodles.  If it is sliced thin enough, you don’t even notice it.  You get to enjoy your lasagna and not roll around the next day with joint pain, puffy fingers, and a headache (seriously, no one likes a wheat hangover!).

Don’t worry, this is super easy and you can pick up a handheld mandolin for super cheap.  If you’re trying to cut down on carbs, increase your vegetable intake, or are gluten intolerant, you’ll be super pumped to get your hands on this lasagna.  You won’t regret it!

 

  • 2 medium or 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (spinach or kale would work too), blanched
  • 32 ounce container ricotta (or make your own)
  • favorite lasagna sauce/filling (I prefer a Bolognese)
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  • 2 cups aged Asiago

 

Peel your butternut squash. Slice in half lengthwise.  This might require you rearing back and hacking the knife into the middle of the squash and then beating it on the cutting board until the knife runs through.  Hey, that’s at least what I do!  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard.  Cut each half in half again crossways to make two smaller pieces.

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Your ‘noodle-less noodles’ in the making.

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All sliced up!

Now get to slicing–CAREFULLY–with the mandolin (these things can take a fingertip off in a skinny minute!).

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‘Noodles’!

Place your slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or so, flipping once about 1/2 way through.  You want them to be soft and to release some liquid, but not be mushy. They’ll cook more later.

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Put a little ‘glue’ in the bottom of your casserole dish.

Place a bit of your sauce (Bolognese–you won’t be sorry!) in the bottom of your casserole dish.

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Layering your junk. Get creative, use different cheeses, or veggies. Got nuts!

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Again, get creative! Here is a noodle-less lasagna layered with fresh mozzarella.

Layer your slices in a single layer, overlapping slightly.  Spoon about 1/3 of the ricotta on top.  Layer 1/3 of the swiss chard.  Spoon about 1/2 of your sauce (Bolognese!) on top.  Layer again with squash slices, ricotta, chard, and sauce (Bolognese–are you getting the hint?).  Repeat one more time.  Top with cheeses.

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Layer it up!

Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and the cheese is just starting to brown.

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This is the molten lava stage–do not…I repeat…do not dive in. You will regret it 100% and then not be able to taste anything for days.  Trust me, I am impatient!

Practice all restraint and patience to avoid cutting immediately as it is molten lava right out of the oven and will burn the bejesus out of your mouth.  I speak from experience.  No throwing your head back, rolling the molten food around in your mouth, and huffing while trying to exclaim explicatives and laughing at yourself.  You.  Can.  Do.  This.  Just wait.  Your patience shall be justly rewarded, I promise!

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Holy Lasagna! It is good, good, good!

Slice after about 10 minutes and dig on in.  No blistered mouth in site….just eye rolling and a happy stomach!

Asparagus is here!

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Asparagus and Proscuitto

Wee little asparagus spears poking up at the first of Spring!

I’ve been waiting patiently.  Veerrryyy patiently. For 3 years. Yes, threeeee years. And it’s finally arrived…asparagus! I planted it on a whim three (did I say three yet?) years ago just to see if I could grow it, and hallelujah, it’s arrived.  You have to wait three years to harvest spears, so this year is an exciting year!  In fact, I almost three a party just because Spring has arrived and the wee little spears have made their debut.

Now, some would argue they don’t like asparagus. I’d argue they haven’t had it cooked right.  By that I mean it’s not supposed to be army green.  Yes, asparagus and good ol’ fatty hollandaise is spectacular, but holy moly, asparagus in prosciutto is The Bomb. And to top it off, it’s super easy.  And people will think you have created culinary magic when they eat it. Wiiiiinnnn!

Asparagus in Proscuitto

  • 1 bunch asparagus, cleaned of fibrous ends
  • 1 pack high quality proscuitto
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup aged shredded Asiago cheese
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Optional: 2 poached eggs per serving (makes a great brunch with a salad, or a great breakfast!)..check out the eggs from Wishbone Heritage Farms!

 

Wash and clean asparagus of woody ends (the whiteish-purple end that doesn’t bend so easily). Dry by rolling between 2 paper towels. Coat with 1 TBSP olive oil and cracked pepper to taste. Wrap 2-3 asparagus with 1/2 slice of prosciutto. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle each group of spears with a little bit of cheese (about 1-2 tsp).  Roast until just tender and prosciutto starts to crisp on the edges, about 15 minutes.

Proscuitto wrapped asparagus

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus ready for the oven!

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Crispy prosciutto and al dente asparagus. De-e-lightful!

While asparagus is cooking, heat water for poaching eggs. After asparagus is done, remove from oven to cool. While asparagus is cooling, poach optional eggs while asparagus is cooling.

prosciutto wrapped asparagus and poached eggs

Yeah…there is seriously no better breakfast!

Dig in my friend!…And consider growing your own!

Radicchio…Taming that Bitter Bite!

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Purple Cabbage? Nope! Radicchio–your new friend!

I can in no way take credit for dreaming up charred radicchio.  I had it at Trattoria Lucca when my buddy Mike made reservations for a family-style meal.  It was superb and I set out to making some of my own.

Most may know radicchio as the little chunks of bitter, purple lettucey-cabbage-like stuff in bagged lettuce mixes.  You know, the one you pick out and scoot to the edge of your plate in a pile while not-so-subtly scrunching up your nose. Yeah, that stuff. In whole form, it looks like miniature, purple-white striated heads of cabbage. Don’t scrunch up your nose too much though, it really is quite the powerhouse of a vegetable.  It contains a sedative/analgesic compound and flavonoid antioxidants.  And like other chicories (think endive), radicchio contains inulin which helps to regulate blood sugar. And, hey, if that doesn’t sell ya, it can also help control intestinal parasites! Woot! Woot!

I will warn you, radicchio by itself can be bitter. However, grilling and charring help mellow its natural bitterness.  Adding some vinegar, a tad of sweetness, some fat, and a bit of lemon juice further round out that bitterness and turn it into a tasty treat.

So, hey, don’t just eat it to protect yourself from intestinal parasites—eat it ’cause it’s tasty!

Charred Radicchio

  • 1 TBSP Oil for searing (use your rendered duck fat, or beef tallow!)
  • 2 heads of radicchio, quartered (keep the little stump on so it doesn’t fall apart)
  • 2 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed and minced finely
  • Plenty of cracked black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp honey or sugar of choice (you can leave this out, but may need more lemon juice on the back end)
  • 6 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked but not crispy (or better yet, 6 slices porchetta)
  • 2 TBSP shredded Asiago
  • 1 TBSP chopped parsley or celery leaves
  • About 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (more or less to taste–it helps reduce any bitterness that may be left)
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Wedge your radicchio, removing any extra core and leaving on the little ‘nub’ where the root was so it doesn’t fall apart when cooking.  

Heat oil of choice in skillet (cast iron preferred) until just below smoke point. While the oil is heating, mix the vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, black pepper, salt, and honey together.

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Coat it up!

Coat the radicchio quarters in the mixture.  When the oil is good and hot, place the quarters on their side in the oil with some room in between. You may have to do more than one batch.  Cook on each side until slightly charred. The goal is to have the edges charred, the outer part a bit wilted, and the interior al dente.As soon as the first edge is charred, turn and repeat on all sides.

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Char on all sides to reduce radicchio’s natural bitterness.

Remove to a plate and spoon the remainder of the marinade over all of the wedges. Squeeze on some fresh lemon juice (if it’s still too bitter for you, add more lemon–it brightens things up and mellows the bitter).

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Save the leftover marinade to spoon over the top when you’re done charring–don’t forget your bacon (or porchetta)!

Sprinkle with the cheese and chopped celery or parsley leaves. Top with bacon, cut into slices (or porchetta on the side).

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From bitter and ostracized to the side of the plate to center stage. Super tasty and super good for you!

Dig in! Make sure to get a bite of bacon or porchetta with each bite!

This Ain’t Your Gran’ Momma’s Kale

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Creamed kale with mushrooms, onions, and Asiago…you’ve never had it so good! This ain’t your Gran’ Momma’s kale!

Oh The Mighty Kale. Everyone’s lovin’ it. And it’s everywhere. And it’s not always so tasty. I can certainly understand why some folks scrunch up their noses, curl their upper lip, and proceed to lambaste the very existence of kale. I too can conjure up those images of piles of soggy, stinky, greenish-black (think Charleston Green) kale that my cooking forebearers served up.  Yes, cooking kale can be a bit tricky but with a little practice you’ll be lovin’ it.  This recipe is pretty darn quick and simple and can be eaten as a side dish or you can add a bit more cheese and cream and serve it over pasta.  This also goes nicely with a grilled chicken breast or pork loin for those non-grain eaters.  For you ‘rooter-to-tooter’ eaters, roast up some marrow bones and serve this on the side or on top of the bones.  So come on now, close your eyes, take a big breath, and promise me you’ll give The Mighty Kale another try. I promise you won’t be sorry!

Creamed Kale with Sautéed Mushrooms, Onions, and Asiago

  • 1.5 pounds of kale (about 2 bunches), stems removed, blanched and drained
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced, cooked
  • 1/2 sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 TBSP butter (raw or cultured if you have it)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (I’ve used allspice or mace in a pinch, but nutmeg is definitely the best choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Bacon, jowl bacon, or lardons

Remove the center stems, roughly chop, blanch, and drain your kale.  Cook your mushrooms to your liking (in a pan with a bit of room between each mushroom, flipping only once is ideal).  If you’re using a bacon product, cook it over medium heat until crisp, letting the fat render, and remove it to a paper towel to drain. Try not to eat all of it. Save the fat to saute your onions. If you’re not a pig lover (*gasp*) just use a few teaspoons of your favorite oil (roasted walnut is a nice choice).

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Cut down either side of the center stem to remove it–then roughly chop your kale.

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Blanch your kale—seriously, it looks (and tastes) so much more edible after blanching!

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Cook up your mushrooms…

Continuing over a medium heat, saute your onions in your choice of fat until translucent and tender.

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Let your onions become translucent.

Add your nutmeg to ‘bloom’ (big ol’ fancy talk for letting it heat a bit, allowing the aromatic oils to release).  Cook the nutmeg over medium heat, stirring, for about 30 seconds or so.  Heap in your kale.  Add the cream and cheese, stirring to coat. Cook until the cream has thickened, the cheese had incorporated, and your kale is tender.  This should take about 5 minutes or so.  The kale should still be a bit ‘toothy’, or have some body to it. Cook it a bit more if you’d like, but don’t overcook it or you’ll have a bitter mess!  Add the mushrooms, and the porky bits if you’re using them, and toss gently to mix them in with the kale and cream sauce.

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Startin’ to look tasty!

Now go to town! Pair it up with your favorite meat (beef, pork, and duck work very well). Or maybe you’ll like it with those marrow bones or over toast points with an over-easy fried egg.  Or–oh my gosh-with a ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich!  Now, go run call your Gran’ Momma and tell her you actually do love kale…as for me, I’m off to hunt down that ooey gooey grilled cheese to make friendly with my kale!

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What?! And you thought you didn’t like kale??

Perfect Mushrooms

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Yes, yes, I know.  Why is there a post on making the perfect mushroom? Same reason there’s a post on blanching vegetables. Ya can’t build a house without any bricks now can ya?  Proper blanching and making the perfect mushroom are  your bricks.  Trust me, once you eat a mushroom prepared this way you’ll have a hard time going back to those watery, limp ones.

The first key is to have dry mushrooms, so don’t wash them right before you’re going to cook them.  It’s much like trying to sear meat.  That beautiful brown ‘crust’ forms when the surface coming into contact with the pan is dry (I could go into some long chemistry chitty chat about what’s happening there, but I suspect you don’t care as long as the mushroom turns out delicious).  The second key to a perfect mushroom is to have a wide bottomed pan. The mushrooms don’t like to be crowded. You need a single layer with a little room in between each mushroom. Otherwise, the ‘shrooms end up steaming themselves and their neighbors.  Next up? Enough heat to draw moisture out of the mushroom and evaporate it as you cook them.  This translates to a medium heat on my stove top. Lastly, use good butter. Sure, you can use olive oil or any other heat tolerant oil, but you should at least try butter.  I marvel at how a pat of butter can transform the lowly fungi every time I make these.  Oh–and cook some extra ’cause you’re gonna eat ’em as you go!

  • Mushrooms, any kind, sliced
  • Oil of your preference…say yes to butter!  Start out with a couple of teaspoons and replenish as necessary if you are cooking up multiple pan batches.
  • Pan large enough to allow space between each mushroom in a single layer; Cook in multiple batches if necessary; Non-stick or a well-seasoned cast iron pan works best.
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Start out with dry mushrooms. I prefer mine sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Place the pan over medium heat and add pat of butter. Bring butter up to temp (watch for the foam to subside) and add mushrooms in a single layer with a little bit of space in between each one.  Now wait. Practice your patience. You should hear the mushrooms sizzling the whole time.  After several minutes the mushrooms will begin to release a little moisture in the form of amber beads of ‘mushroom sweat’ on their topsides.

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See those little beads of amber liquid starting to form? That’s what you’re looking for—that means you’re concentrating the flavor! Just about time to flip!

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Here’s another pic of the ‘mushroom sweat’…these guys are definitely ready to flip.

After each mushroom has offered up some little amber sweat beads, gently flip them. You’ll find the side that has been in contact with the pan is a beautiful caramel color.  This translates to super flavor.  You should be getting excited at this point and you might start trying to pick one out of the hot pan since they smell soooo goood.

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Hey now…look at that golden caramel color around the edges. That’s what you’re looking for. Let ’em wilt a minute or two and pull them off of the heat. Err on less cooking than more.

Cook them for a few minutes more until they just start to ‘wilt’ and look a bit darker brown (see below).  You want them to retain some firmness and not to get dried out. Err on the side of too short a cooking time versus too long. They will wilt a bit more once off of the heat.  You’re looking at about a 8-10 minute total time. Salt if necessary.

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Look at those beauties. Best ‘mushroomy’ mushroom you can get! And a great texture to boot. Dig in!

Now run forth and make Perfect Mushrooms for everyone you know.  Watch as their faces light up with amazement that they’ve never had a mushroom that tasted so good.  And for reals…try them with light puffy scrambled eggs and a bit o’ shredded cheese…eggs never met a better partner!

**If you’re adding these to a dish it’s best to cook them separately and then add in at an appropriate time so they retain both flavor and texture (i.e. close to the end).**

Blanching Greens

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Okay. This topic might sound a bit simple, or unnecessary.  BUT I’ve found lots of folks who don’t know how or why you should blanch greens.  If you’re no stranger to greens, you know they can be bitter and pungent.  Blanching often reduces this bitterness.  Don’t believe me?  Peel some outer leaves off of brussel sprouts, blanch quickly, shock in ice, and serve with a citrus vinaigrette.  You’ve just made a sweet, tasty salad out of one of the most despised vegetables. No bitterness or funk to be found. Blanching can also reduce cooking times.  Thinking about adding greens to a pasta dish?  It’ll be faster, and tastier if they’re blanched.  Blanching also lets you add greens to other dishes–like a quiche. If you didn’t blanch them and squeeze out the liquid first you’d have egg, greens, and cheese soup! If none of this convinces you of the merits of blanching…let’s go with ‘it just makes the colors so darn pretty’.

Now that we’ve learned the merits of blanching, don’t stop at greens.  Blanching other vegetables can work in your favor too.  Blanched green beans turn out sweet but still crunchy and are perfect for a Salad Nicoise (or a snack!).  Blanch a tomato to help the skin slip off.  Blanch tiny baby carrots to make them even sweeter while retaining some firmness. Or blanch fresh corn or field peas prior to freezing in order to retain freshness (it kills natural bacteria on the skin that can produce off tastes later).

  • Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl with both ice and water.  Nest your sieve or colander down in the bowl and set it aside (the nesting makes it easier to strain away the water).
  • Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As Chef Thomas Keller states, “It should taste like sea water in the summer”.
  • Working in small batches, gently place your greens (or other veggies) in the boiling water. Be careful to maintain a boil throughout. The idea is to cook the veggies as quickly as possible.  Small batches and a high salt content help keep the water boiling so the veggies cook as quickly as possible.
  • Watch for the color to ‘pop’.  Don’t worry, you’ll see it.  The veggies will get much brighter.  Now, if you’re still wanting a crunch to them, pull them out with a slotted spoon or skimmer.  If you’d like, you can cook them until your preferred firmness. If you like a super squishy vegetable (I hope not!), there are probably better methods of cooking them so there’s more flavor. Too long in the pot and you’re just boiling the veggies. They will look sad and depressing and taste like, well, water. We all know from our school cafeteria days what a boiled veggie looks like! No. Thank. You.
  • Plunge them into the ice bath and cool completely to stop the cooking.  You can season and eat as is or you can saute, roast, or add them to other preparations. Go wild!

Next time you’re cooking up some fresh veggies, give blanching a go. You might just find you like those brussel sprouts after all!

Check out these unblanched greens…

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Unblanched kale. Lovely, but a little dull.

Now, check out the same kale after blanching…

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Gorgeous! And super tasty…no bitterness to be found!

Caramelized Onions

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See those caramelized onions? Ok, so the egg and greens are a bit distracting…Go to the left of the egg, sitting right on top of the greens, nestled on top of the toast rounds/goat cheese…yep, there they are! Trust me, your taste buds will not miss these guys!

Look at that beautiful egg–check those out (and SO much more!) at Wishbone Heritage Farms.  You won’t regret it!

Ok. I won’t lie to you. The process of caramelizing onions is a bit tedious. I mean, you have to cut up a ginormous amount of them, put ’em in a pan, stir them, give them more attention than I bestow on most folks, and waaaaiiiiitttt.  BUT, they are so worth it. They’re like little candied onions.  Tons of flavor and sweet. I almost can’t eat a pork loin without them. They’re great on a crostini with some goat cheese.  Or you can mix them in with soups or try ’em with your creamy grits. My husband almost knocked me down one day when we were racing for the last bit of fluffy scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Muenster cheese.  Luckily I practice my mental acuity games, thought on my feet, threw him a sharp elbow, and beat him to the pan.  Then guilt kicked in and I shared. Dang conscience.  Those caramelized onions would’ve been all mine! So, grab yourself a beverage of choice and a stool, park yourself in front of the stove, and make a huge batch so there’s enough to share and you don’t have to resort to childish shenanigans!

  • 6 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced and separated (any sweet onion will work; You can use others but may need to add a couple of pinches of sugar in the beginning)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • Optional: 1/2 cup Marsala or Sherry wine (dry or sweet is your preference, depending on your intended use)

Heat 1 TBSP oil over medium heat in a pan large enough to accommodate your onions. Many will tell you that there should be a single layer, but I don’t have a pan the size of Texas and it still works. So, after the oil is hot, place in your onions and give them a toss to coat.  If you’re using yellow or Spanish onions, add a couple of generous pinches of sugar here.  Those onions have less natural sugar and can be harder to caramelize.  Add the water to the pan and put on your lid (or some foil to capture steam).  Let the onions steam a bit to soften up. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

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Steam the onions a bit first to make their bulk a little more manageable. You’ll start with what seems like an insurmountable amount of onions and work your way down to a much smaller portion.

A golden brown or amber color on the edges is okay, black and charred is not tasty for this application.  After the onions are a more manageable size (maybe 10 minutes or so), remove the cover.  Remember that beverage and chair?  Use them—this is gonna take a bit. Make sure the softened onions are in as much contact with the pan as possible if they can’t be in a single layer at this point.

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The onions are beginning to get their caramel on.

Every 5 minutes or so, check the color of the onions that are in contact with the pan by lifting up a few with a spatula. If they are that deep, golden brown (not burnt!), flip gently.  Try not to break the onion skins when stirring or flipping as it can make the end result a bit stringy in my opinion.  After flipping, get the onions situated in a single layer again, aaannndd wait. Keep checking and flipping as the color darkens.  You’ll have to be more attentive as time progresses in order to avoid burning the onions. It can happen fast, so watch your heat and the time between flipping. For a big batch, the whole process can take around 40 minutes.

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This is about where I start wanting to pick at them because they smell so good! This is also the point where you can add flavorings like Marsala or Sherry or herbs like anise, rosemary, or black pepper. Try out herbs and flavorings that will complement your meal.

Depressingly, the vat of onions you started with condenses down, like the center of a black hole, to this super concentrated form of onion. They’re sweet and earthy and oniony at the same time.  Never fear onion haters (Shane!), it’s not that sharp onion flavor, but much more mellow–like a grilled onion. These guys will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so–but I promise they won’t be around that long!

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Whew! You’re done! Delicious, flavorful caramelized onions. I promise you’ll start making up reasons to use these!!

Easy Fermented Pickles

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fermented pickles

Super crunchy, zesty fermented pickles.

After experimenting with fermenting cabbage and producing a delicious sauerkraut, I turned my sights to fermented pickles.  I can remember my Dad fermenting pickles from the garden in a huge Blue Crown crock.  The fermented pickles always tasted so much better than heat-processed, canned pickles.  The flavor of the spices stood out, the sourness was superior to that produced by vinegar alone, and they stayed crunchy.  I read post after post and tried recipe after recipe and settled on something that combined the best of all of them.  They really did turn out superbly–a little spicy, a little garlicky, and a whole lotta crunchy.  No limp, squeaky, bland pickles here!  Best news, unlike other ferments that take a month or two, this one took only 9 days to produce a fantastic pickle!

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Spicy, garlicky, and crunchy!

Fermented Pickles

  • 5 wide-mouthed quart jars, sterilized
  • 5 smaller jars (I use 4 ounce) jars, sterilized
  • Sterilized tongs
  • 5 rounds of parchment paper, cut to fit just inside of quart jars
  • 5 sections of cheesecloth and 5 lengths of twine to cover jars
  • 12 cups of filtered water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 5 red chili peppers, diced
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 5 teaspoons dried dill
  • 5, 1/2 tsp loose green tea leaves (oolong is a good choice too)
  • 5, 1/2 tsp of black peppercorns (more or less to taste)
  • 20 pickling cucumbers, washed (free of bruises and soft spots)

Bring 6 cups water and all of the salt to a boil over high heat. Off heat add 6 cups water and the vinegar.  Let cool to room temperature.

Pickling Spices

I finally settled on just a few spices but the options are nearly endless.

Tea for pickling

Tannins keep fermented pickles crisp. Not having access to a steady source of grape or oak leaves, I turned to tea leaves. I tried several varieties and settled on green (oolong is a good option too).

Place 2 garlic cloves, 1 diced chili pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon dried dill, 1/2 tsp loose green tea leaves, and 1/2 tsp black peppercorns in the bottom of each quart jar.

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Load your choice of pickling spices in the bottom of the sterilized quart jars.

fermented cucumbers

Try out a variety of spices–here was a trial run with added mustard seeds.

Pack with cucumbers (usually about 4 or so fit).  Cover cucumbers by about an inch and a half with brine.  Save the remaining brine and place in the fridge in case jars need to be topped off during the fermentation period.

fermented pickles

Cucumbers packed into their jars and covered with brine. Here you can see different spice experiments caused different colorations in brine.

Place a parchment round on top of the cucumbers, submerged in the brine. Place a smaller jar on top of the round and cucumbers to hold the cucumbers down.

feremented pickles

A small jar weighs down cucumbers to keep them below the brine’s surface.

fermented pickles

A 4 oz canning jar fits just inside a wide-mouthed, quart canning jar to keep cucumbers below the pickling brine’s surface. It’s a great option if you don’t need a large pickling crock’s worth of pickles

Place a square of cheesecloth over each jar and secure with kitchen twine to keep dust out. Keep your jars at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.  Check daily to make sure cucumbers are covered in brine, top off if necessary, and skim any scum that might form.  If the cheesecloth gets damp, replace it.  The brine will get cloudy and bubbles will form, and the cucumbers will turn from the bright green of a cucumber to the darker, olive-green color of a pickle. Mine were perfect at 9 days, but taste as you go and move them to the fridge when you achieve the flavor you want (sources say the cucumbers can sit for up to 21 days at room temperature).  Voila! Easy fermented pickles!

fermented pickles

Perfect fermented pickles!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with White Truffle Oil

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I don’t remember where I first came across roasted cauliflower soup.  What I do remember is that I fell in love immediately.  I was never a big fan of cauliflower as it was most often either tasteless, waterlogged, or overly sulfurous.  Roasted cauliflower, however, is divine. It’s addictive.  Once I roasted a head of florets and served them with browned butter–nary a crumb left within minutes.  Roasted cauliflower soup is more substantial than a boiled and pureed cauliflower soup, it feels richer, has more depth, and has a little nutty hint.  A few drops of white truffle oil make it transcendent.  And the beauty is it really is quite simple to make.  You can opt to add cream or leave it out if you’re dairy-free, lactose-intolerant, or non-dairy paleo.  I do love the cream, and it’s just a wee bit per bowl, but the soup tastes good without it, too.  Plus, cauliflower is a powerhouse nutritionally and touts detoxification, cardiovascular, digestive, and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Win! Win!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with White Truffle Oil (makes about 6 cups)

For the Roasted Cauliflower:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, washed, air-dried and broken into florets
  • 1 TBSP Light Tasting Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the soup:

  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 sweet potato (not yam), peeled and cubed
  • 2 tsp organic paste chicken bouillon (alternatively, use 3 cups water and 3 cups stock instead of 6 cups of filtered water)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • White truffle oil
  • parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place florets on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic, salt, and pepper.  Toss gently to cover.  Place baking sheet on the middle rack and roast for 20 minutes.  Turn cauliflower with tongs or spatula and roast 20 minutes longer or until cauliflower becomes golden brown on edges and becomes slightly more translucent but stalks remain slightly firm.

Roasted Cauliflower

Lovely roasted cauliflower.

Place florets in stock pot over medium-high and cover with water (about 6 cups).  Add sweet potato, paste bouillon, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until cauliflower is thoroughly cooked and tender, about 20 minutes.  Once tender, puree small batches of the cauliflower soup in a blender until silky smooth (about 2 minutes per batch).  Return to stock pot over low heat. Whisk in heavy cream. Ladle into bowls and garnish with drops of white truffle oil (a tiny amount goes a LONG way!) and parsley.

Cauliflower Soup

Roasted cauliflower soup with white truffle oil and parsley. Too tasty!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

An alternative garnish–browned butter, roasted florets, and bits of smokey bacon. This is a great winter addition that packs some real satisfaction!