DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2

Happy MaddAddam day! I will receive my copy in the mail today and plan to begin reading it as soon as I get home from work.

As promised, here is the alternate version of my interpretation of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley from The Year of the Flood.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with this previous post about version 1.

What makes this recipe so perfectly God’s Gardener-esque is the option to use any fun fungi (hur hur hur) you can get your hands on — extra points if you forage them. However, I have added some specific instructions for the mushrooms I used. I also like the use of the dark vinegar over strictly white or apple cider; it seems more like something that would have been fermented in the Vinegar Room from the dregs of wine scavenged from nightclub dumpsters by the Young Bioneers. The only thing distinctly un-Gardener about it is that it must be refrigerated.

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 is great for stabbing with toothpicks for a cocktail snack (or, let’s be real, a standing-over-the-sink-with-a-fork snack). On the other hand, #2 is more well suited to eat as a side dish with a fork or, even better yet, as a building block in other main dishes. Imagine a scoop of these flavorful ‘shrooms on a sandwich, salad or pasta — the herbed oil and vinegar acts as a built in dressing.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 – Refrigerated
Adapted from Herbed Marinated Mushrooms from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich

Makes 1 quart

3/4 cup olive oil, separated
approximately 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms, mixed varieties of your choice, stems trimmed or removed as appropriate (I recommend roaming your local Asian market)

I used:
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
5 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces
5 ounces fresh enoki mushrooms, bottom of stems removed

2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons diced pimento
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from woody stalk (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon pickling salt

Rinse all mushrooms to remove dirt or debris. Trim or remove woody stems as needed, depending on mushroom variety. If mushrooms are particularly large, cut into bite sized pieces if desired.

In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté, covered, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and sauté again until tender. If your varieties differ greatly in shape or tenderness, add them in an order that will prevent you from overcooking the more fragile ones. (For my mixture, I cooked the white button, crimini, and shiitake for 5 minutes. Then I added the oyster and cooked 5 minutes more. Then the enoki, and cooked for 2 minutes more.)

Once tender, drain any excess liquid if necessary and transfer mushrooms to a heatproof bowl.

Combine garlic, onion, and vinegar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Simmer gently for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Add pimento, herbs, bay leaf, salt, and remaining olive oil. Heat until just boiling, then pour over mushrooms and toss to coat.

Pack the mushrooms into a clean quart jar. Top with a lid (used is fine since it will not be processed) and screw a ring on to close. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator. (Because the jar contents are hot, you may find that the lid “seals” — this does not make it shelf-stable!)

Let the mushrooms pickle for about a week before eating. In the fridge, the oil may solidify and turn opaque — this is normal. Bring to room temperature before serving and the oil will become liquid again.

Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

Ever since my pre-order on February 21, I’ve been counting down the days to MaddAddam.

MaddAddam, coming on September 3, completes Margaret Atwood’s trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009). The series focuses on a handful of different characters and their experiences leading up to and after a global pandemic. Oryx and Crake follows the experiences of Snowman (aka Jimmy), a privileged young man who grew up on the HelthWyzer compound (a rich suburb that is walled off from the crime and poverty of the “pleeblands”). The Year of the Flood tells the stories of Toby and Ren, former members of a fringe religious group in the pleeblands called the God’s Gardeners who predicted the pandemic, calling it the “Waterless Flood.”

I’ve just reread both of them in preparation, obviously.

One of the things that I like so much about The Year of the Flood in particular, and much speculative and science fiction in general, is the food. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to grow and safely preserve food is a necessity, or an alien world where a description of dinner helps paint the vivid picture of a world unknown, well-written food always tickles me in a story.

It’s because of this that I’ve decided to seek out and develop a series of recipes inspired by my favorite books. Which I am of course, calling DeLITcious, because I can’t resist a horrible pun. And what better book to start with than The Year of the Flood as I wait with bated breath for MaddAddam to arrive on my doorstep?

In The Year of the Flood, The God’s Gardeners are nothing if not self-sufficient. In many of the flashbacks to Ren’s and especially Toby’s time with them, the food that they grow and preserve plays a major role in their daily life. They have a rooftop garden for vegetables, a beehive to harvest honey, and a mushroom growing operation, nutritional and medicinal alike, in the bottom of an abandoned condominium building.

When Toby first joins the Gardeners, one of the first foods she eats (among many others) is a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

“The first evening, there was a modest celebration in honour of Toby’s advent. A great fuss was made over the opening of a jar of preserved purple items — those were her first elderberries — and a pot of honey was produced as if it was the Holy Grail.

Adam One made a little speech about providential rescues. The brand plucked from the burning was mentioned, and the one lost sheep — she’d hear of those before, at church — but other, unfamiliar examples of rescue were used as well: the relocated snail, the windfall pear. Then they’d eaten a sort of lentil pancake and a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley, followed by slices of soy bread topped with the purple berries and the honey.

After her initial elation, Toby was feeling stunned and uneasy. How had she got up here, to this unlikely and somehow disturbing location? What was she doing among these friendly though bizarre people, with their wacky religion and — right now — their purple teeth?”

Pilar and her place in the God’s Gardeners is not revealed until later. However, given the friendship that grows between them, I really like that part of Toby’s first Gardener meal was a result of Pilar’s labor.

All of this is to say, I wanted to make my own version of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

But then I ended up with two versions.

Here’s the deal: The God’s Gardeners most certainly would have canned their wares, both for selling at the Tree of Life market but also for packing into their Ararats (caches of food and supplies hidden all over the city in preparation for surviving the Waterless Flood). And Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley most certainly would have contained a wide variety of mushrooms plucked from the bed in the basement of the Buenavista Condos — puffballs, shaggy manes, morels, and anything else that was available when she went to fill the jars.

Therein lies the problem. There are no tested, approved water-bath canning recipes that I am aware of that utilize anything besides standard grocery store button and crimini mushrooms (which, by the way, are the same species). Other varieties of mushrooms would likely have a different density which could affect the safety of a finished canned product.

Because I’m not in the business of poisoning my loved ones, I decided that two versions would be appropriate. First, behold the Ararat-approved recipe utilizing a “medley” of crimini and white button mushrooms.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1Coming soon, a more exciting and exotic medley that must be stored in the refrigerator. Stay tuned. (Update: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 recipe here.)

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 – Shelf Stable
Slightly adapted from Marinated Whole Mushrooms by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 9 to 12 half-pints

3 1/2 pounds small whole white button mushrooms
3 1/2 pounds small whole crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon pickling salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup diced pimento
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in quarters
27-36 black peppercorns

Equipment
9-12 half-pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Select the freshest, smallest mushrooms you can find. Wash to remove dirt, then trim off the stems, leaving about 1/4-inch attached to the cap.

Dump all the mushrooms in the largest pot you can find (or split them evenly between two large pots), then pour lemon juice over. Fill with water until mushrooms are fully submerged. Bring to a boil (this will take a very long time), then simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain mushrooms. (Because the pot was so big and unwieldy, I had a much better time using a skimmer to transfer the mushrooms from the simmering liquid to a large bowl. In addition, I was able to save and freeze some of the mushroom liquid — the lemon juice prevents you from using it as straight broth, but I froze some into cubes which I plan on throwing into soups here and there that need a bit of a pick-me-up.)

At some point you should start your canner boiling, depending on how long it takes for it to get up to temperature. When it is, pop your jars, lids, rings, and tools in for 10 minutes to sterilize.

Mix olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, onion and pimento in a large nonreactive saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat.

Remove sterilized jars from canner and place on a clean dishtowel. Put a quarter piece of garlic and 3 black peppercorns in each jar. Using a funnel, fill each jar with mushrooms until there is about 1-inch of headspace. Then ladle in hot, well-mixed oil and vinegar mixture until there is 1/2-inch of headspace.

Use a chopstick, small spatula, or other non-metal utensil to stab and stir the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet paper towel. Center a lid on top, then screw on a band until fingertip-tight (until you just meet resistance). Using jar tongs, place jars in the canner.

Bring water back to a full, rolling boil, then process for 20 minutes (or longer according to this chart if you are at a different altitude).

Using jar tongs, remove jars from canner upright, without tilting. Place on a clean, dry dishtowel without touching each other. Do not disturb for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used. Remove rings to prevent rust, and clean the outsides of the jars and lids as needed before storage. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 to 9 months. Refrigerate after opening and use within 1 month.

Note on yield: While the original recipe states this recipe makes 9 half-pints, I ended up with 10 and a lot of mushrooms still left. If you don’t have enough jars or room in your canner to process them all, you can store them in non-canning jars (I used those tall salsa jars) and store them in the refrigerator.

Deviled Egg Pageant: Godzilla Eggs

I ate like fifteen deviled eggs today.

For the second year in a row, I hosted a deviled egg pageant. Mostly as an excuse to eat an obscene amount of eggs.

IMG_2089The competition was fierce. From left to right, starting at the top: Godzilla Eggs (mine!), a little Sriracha number; Old Bay Crust-egg-ceans, with red pepper strip legs and olive eyes; Mousse Experiment #24, a complex, cloud-like mousse filling with apples, onions, and brandy; Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs with Cayenne and Paprika (made by Ann Marie, who has shared her recipe on her blog); Potato Skin “Eggs” for the egg haters; Smoked Eggs (as in, smoked with wood chips!) some vegetarian, some topped with smoked salmon; Sriracha and Wasabi Eggs that were CUBES and tasted like Chinese food and had an amazing plating diorama (made by Jenny, who shared her secrets on her blog); and Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Eggs.

You know, it’s not fair to say this was just about eating a bunch of eggs. It was also an excuse to get crafty. Because what’s an pageant without prizes?

IMG_2085
Yes, that is an egg tiara. And plaques.

IMG_2080    IMG_2086

It’s pretty serious.

So, how’d it all go down? There were four Honorable Mentions:

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: honorable mentionsBest Not-an-Egg – Liz’s Potato Skin “Eggs”
Just Like Grandma Used To Make – Ann Marie’s Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs
Best Local Pride – Colline’s Old Bay Crust-egg-ceans
What the Heck Was in That? – Ray’s Mousse Experiment #24

Then there were the three main prizes:

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Audience choice and best classic eggBest Classic Egg – Kendall’s Bacon, Cheddar and Chive
Best Modern Egg – yours truly’s Godzilla Eggs
Audience Choice – Jenny’s Sriracha and Wasabi Eggs

Seriously, did I mention how amazing Jenny’s eggs were? CUBES. DELICIOUSNESS. DIORAMA.

Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Best egg in showThe judges told me that Best Egg in Show was a tight race, but in the end the answer was obvious.
Baltimore deviled egg pageant: Egg queenJenny was born to wear that tiara.

I’m honored to have won Best Modern Egg two years in a row (you may remember my recipe for chipotle cheddar deviled eggs from last year). And I’m happy to share this year’s recipe with you.

I could tell you what I think about these eggs. They’re sushi inspired, making use of a mayo based sushi dipping sauce to create the filling then topped with a nori garnish. (I may have claimed that deviled eggs are “the sushi of the West” which honestly, I still stand behind.)

I can also tell you what the judges thought, since I sneaked a peek at their scoring sheets. The experts say that these eggs taste “Impeccable, [with a] good balance of spicy and salty.” In addition, “Sriracha doesn’t overpower, which is good. Great flavor that lingers.”

I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

Godzilla eggsGodzilla Eggs

Makes 24 deviled eggs

12 eggs, hard cooked
6 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
4 black teabags (I used Red Rose which is just a basic orange pekoe)
1/2 cup mayonnaise, homemade preferred
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Sriracha chili sauce, for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish
1/4 – 1/2 sheet nori, chopped chiffonade, for garnish

Start with eggs that are already hard cooked with whatever method you prefer. I’m a fan of the process I outlined in my chipotle cheddar deviled eggs recipe, which is basically: put room temperature eggs in a pot, cover with water, put a lid on, put over heat. When it just comes to a boil, cut the heat and leave for 9 minutes. Drain and put in an ice bath or flush with cold water until the eggs are cool.

Bring 6 cups of fresh water to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce and black soy sauce, then add the teabags and remove from heat. Let steep for about 5 minutes then remove. Set aside to cool completely.

Peel cooked eggs, then place in cooled tea/soy sauce mixture. It is important to make sure the mixture is completely cooled to avoid overcooking your eggs! Set in the fridge to steep for at least 8 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha, sesame oil and chili oil. Stir well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Slice peeled, tea-dyed eggs in half and scoop the yolks into a medium bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork until all lumps are gone. Add Sriracha/mayo mixture and salt, and stir to combine. Make sure you really whip the filling to get rid of all the lumps. Taste, then add more Sriracha or salt if desired.

Spoon or pipe filling into egg white halves, then garnish with a dot of Sriracha, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and the chopped nori. Eat!

Briny bay pickled beans

I’ve been canning off and on for a few years now. Not super seriously, to be honest. I have a pressure canner that I inherited from my mother, but I’m terrified of using it. So I’ve just done a few boiling water canning projects: a marmalade that I thickened too much, a few jams that I never really used, a mustard that turned out completely inedible.

Then I made a batch of hot pickled asparagus the other month.

Holy. Shit.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pickles are the hipster stereotype of home preserving. It’s the food counterpart to homebrewing (which, for the record, is my mister’s thang). But you know why they’re so popular? Because they’re delicious, and hard to fuck up.

One thing that kills me about canning in general is the fear of botulism preventing me from experimenting. But with pickling, as long as you keep your brine at the correct acidity and use the recommended vegetables and processing times? You can play around a bit with your seasonings without paralyzing anyone’s face. I mean, isn’t that everyone’s goal?

So, these Old Bay infused green bean pickles. They’re spicy-sour, and because they only need to be processed for five minutes, they stay very crisp. I may have eaten an entire jar for lunch one day. When my mister whined that he had tried to find the jar in the fridge for his lunch but they were all gone, I reminded him that six of the jars are destined for my Homemade Trade club and not to eat them. But, I added: I’ll put up another batch while green beans are still in season… if he helped me trim them all up.

He agreed with no hesitation.

briny bay pickled beans

Briny Bay Pickled Beans
Adapted from Pickled Dilled Beans by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 8 pint jars

4 pounds fresh green beans
2 1/4 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon pickling salt
8 cloves garlic
16 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

Equipment
8 pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Wash your green beans and lay out to dry on a dish towel. Trim ends off beans so you’re left with uniform 4-inch lengths. Peel and rinse garlic cloves.

Fill your canner so the water is at least two inches above the jars, and bring to a boil. (You might want to do this earlier depending on how long it takes your canner to come to a boil — I get mine started while I am prepping my beans.)

Wash your jars, lids, rings, and tools by washing in warm soapy water. Then sanitize by boiling in water. Alternatively, use the sanitize setting on your dishwasher, if desired.
In a large saucepan, bring water, vinegar, and pickling salt to a boil.

Remove jars from boiling water.

Add a garlic clove and 2 teaspoons Old Bay to each jar, then tightly pack with as many upright green beans as will fit. Ladle hot brine into each jar — a jar funnel makes this much easier, but if you don’t have one, just be careful. Leave 1/2″ headroom in each jar.

Wipe each rim with a clean, damp cloth. Center an unused, sterilized lid on each jar. Screw the rings over each lid until “fingertip tight” — that is, screwed on until you just start to get resistance.

Use your jar tongs to carefully place each packed jar in the canner. Bring back to a boil, then process for 5 minutes (up to 15 depending on altitude — see chart).

Remove jars from canner with tongs without tilting. Place on a folded dish towel, away from drafts and not touching each other. Let sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used.

Store sealed jars in pantry for up to 1 year. Then, refrigerate once opened for up to one month.

Old Bay cheese crackers at Let’s Give Peas a Chance

Today I wrote a guest post for my friend Ann Marie, another Baltimore-based vegetarian food blogger, at her blog Let’s Give Peas a Chance. As a fellow Baltimorean, I knew Ann Marie would appreciate a snack highlighting everyone’s favorite Chesapeake-region seasoning. Hop on over today to find my recipe for Old Bay Cheese Crackers and say hello to Ann Marie!

Old Bay cheese crackers

Hot pickled asparagus for an easy and delicious spring canning project

Have you ever had one of those days when you find yourself at the grocery store with $40 worth of pickles in your cart?

No? Just me?

Not only did this happen, but when I posted about it on Facebook it got more “Likes” than anything else I’ve ever posted about in my entire Facebook career. I don’t even know what to think about this.

To be fair, I didn’t even have that many pickles to add up to that $40. What made it so ridiculous was two jars of rick’s picks. I don’t care. Worth it. I got home and promptly ate an entire jar of the mean beans for dinner. Salty, sour, crisp, and spicy. Almost a little too spicy, but not quite. Just perfect.

Except, uh, they’re $10 a jar.

So I’ve been thinking of making some of my own homemade hot pickled green beans, you know, to try to save some cash while still managing to accidentally pickle my internal organs from over-consumption of salt and vinegar.

But then I thought, waitwaitwait, it’s SPRING. And I kept seeing beautiful asparagus of all colors (green! purple! white!) show up in the farmer’s market and grocery stores. Why not pickle that?

I brought a jar to share with some lovely ladies after a group bike ride the other weekend. None of them had ever tried pickled asparagus before. One of them said: “I’d never even heard of pickled asparagus, but now I can’t imagine a world without it.”

In a word: YEP.

hot pickled asparagus

Hot Pickled Asparagus
Adapted from Pickled Asparagus by National Center for Home Food Preservation and Pickled Asparagus with Hot Peppers and Garlic by Dad Cooks Dinner

Makes 6 pint jars

7 1/2 to 8 pounds asparagus
4 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity) *
1/2 cup pickling salt
6 cloves garlic
18 dried chili peppers
6 sprigs fresh dill
1.5 teaspoons black peppercorns
1.5 teaspoons whole coriander

* You can substitute some or all of the white vinegar with apple cider vinegar to your tastes. I went for all white vinegar in part because I was using my lovely blue glass canning jars, but using half apple cider vinegar gives delightful flavor. The important thing is to make sure it’s 5% acidity.

Equipment
6 pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

An important note: canning is one of those things where if you fool with established ratios you can die from botulism. Spices/seasonings can generally be changed around without worry, which is where you can get a little creative. You just don’t want to change types of vegetables or levels of brine acidity willy-nilly unless you are a food scientist with access to lab-grade pH testing equipment or something. If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

To begin, prep your asparagus: wash and lay out on a dish towel to dry. Trim the stalks off so your spears fit upright in your jar — around 4 inches long.

(There will likely be some usable stalk left after you trim to size — cut that off and save for later use in stir fry, risotto, soup, etc.)

Peel and rinse garlic cloves. Rinse chili peppers. Rinse dill sprigs. Lay all out on a dish towel to dry.

Fill your canner so the water is at least an inch above the jars, and bring to a boil. (You might want to do this earlier depending on how long it takes your canner to come to a boil — I get mine started while I am prepping my asparagus.)

Sanitize your jars, lids, rings, and tools by boiling in water (or by using the sanitize setting on your dishwasher, if desired).

When you’re ready to pack, remove jars from boiling water. Put 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander, a clove of garlic, 3 chili peppers, and 1 sprig of dill in each jar. Then pack with as much asparagus as will fit, tips pointing up. You may not be able to fit all your asparagus into the jars, but better to have some leftover than not have enough to fill your jars, right?

In a large saucepan, bring water, vinegar, and pickling salt to a boil. Remove from heat, then ladle hot brine into each jar — a jar funnel makes this much easier, but if you don’t have one, just be careful. Leave 1/2″ headroom in each jar — it is okay if the tips of the asparagus are a little bit above the brine.

Wipe each rim with a clean, damp cloth. Center an unused, sterilized lid on each jar. Screw the rings over each lid until “fingertip tight” — that is, screwed on until you just start to get resistance, no tighter.

Using your jar tongs, place the jars on the rack in the canner. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then process for 10 minutes (or up to 20 minutes depending on altitude — see this chart). Remove jars from canner, then place on a dish towel on the counter, not touching each other.

Leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Stay close by if you want to hear the satisfying “pop! pop! pop!” that lets you know you’ve succeeded.

Check that all jars have properly sealed by pressing down on the middle of the lid — if it moves and you hear a noise, put them in the fridge immediately and you can still eat them, but they will not be shelf-stable.

Remove the rings before storing if desired (they can sometimes rust or get stuck). Do not open for 3 to 5 days before eating to allow the asparagus to fully pickle. Store in the pantry for up to one year (hahaha yeah right, you’re eating these all within a month!). Then refrigerate upon opening, for up to one month.

Vegan French onion dip for a Super Bowl snack

So, I don’t give a shit about football, or the Super Bowl.

But I sure do like snacks!

Oh yeah, I guess my city is also going crazy because of this particular Super Bowl. Caw caw, and so on.

But mostly, I’m in this just for the snacks.

But what snacks to make? I considered jalapeno popper dip, but decided I should try something new. Then I got to thinking about how I told y’all to make a double batch of caramelized onions earlier this week. And I figured since one of the hosts of the party I am going to is a vegan, it might be nice for him to be able to eat something besides what he’s making.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

vegan French onion dip

This is a great dish for mixed crowds: people who might normally grumble about a veganized version of a classic snack-food will be so blown away by the real caramelized onions instead of sad freeze-dried bits from a packet. Using tofu instead of sour cream and mayo does give a bit of a lighter taste to it. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; when navigating a Super Bowl sea of deep fried everything, pacing yourself is key. Not for dieting, mind you, but to ensure you can sufficiently sample all the snacks.

If you already have the caramelized onions ready, this dip zizzes up in a hot minute. If you don’t, I once again must recommend that you make a double batch of the onions. It only takes a little bit longer, and you never know when you might need some.

Vegan French Onion Dip
Adapted from Tofu Sour Cream by Vegan Epicurean

Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Onions:
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 large onions)
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Dip:
2 12.3-ounce packages of Mori-Nu firm silken tofu
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon miso
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Marmite
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
salt, to taste

First off, caramelize the onions. Thinly slice the onions in half moons. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Add sliced onions and toss to fully coat. Cover and leave for 15 minutes (20 minutes for double batch) to soften.

Remove lid and raise the heat slightly. Add in salt and sugar, then cook and stir onions frequently for 30 to 45 minutes (50 to 60 minutes for a double batch) — you want them to be paper lunch bag brown, and for the texture to be gelatinous, almost like preserves or marmalade. These can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. If using immediately, set aside to cool. You’ll be left with approximately 3/4 cup of caramelized onions.

Put tofu, canola oil, vinegar, lemon juice, dijon, miso, Marmite, and pepper in a food processor and blend until very smooth. Add caramelized onions and pulse 5-6 times — don’t overdo it!

Scoop into a bowl or storage container, give it a quick stir to combine, and cover tightly. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. It will firm up a little bit in the fridge.

Before serving, give it a taste and stir in more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with chips, bread, crackers, and/or slices of apples and pears.

Miniature latkes, made by a Gentile for a Christmas party

I love latkes.

I’m also not Jewish by a long shot.

Don’t get me wrong. I went to a Bat or Bar Mitzvah every weekend of seventh grade. My grandmother hosts a Seder every year, because her friend Maury doesn’t have any family nearby. I’ve gone to celebrate Hanukkah with my friend and former roommate Liz, before she had to go and get a girlfriend and cut me out of the fun.

But I’ve never watched an actual Jewish grandmother make latkes, is what I’m saying. So don’t get angry at me if these are all wrong. They’re not wrong. They’re just Gentile latkes.

They’re also pretty darn good. Liz even claims that they’re the best latkes she’s had; her family doesn’t cook all that much so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

They also freeze well after frying, which is exactly what I did with them. They’re currently awaiting their fate for our annual pre-Christmas cocktail party. You can of course make these regular sized, and cook them longer as needed. But this mini size is a fun bite for a holiday party, served alongside dishes of sour cream and applesauce. The horseradish sour cream I’m serving them with is also not exactly traditional — I hope the deliciousness will make up for that.

miniature latkes

Miniature Latkes

Makes approximately 90-100 mini latkes

2 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1/2 large yellow onion
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

Wash and dry your potatoes. You’re welcome to peel them, but I never bother and haven’t gotten a complaint yet. Plus, peels make it healthy, right? Even if it’s fried in oil?

With the grating disc on your food processor, grate the potatoes. I usually slice them in half lengthwise to fit them in my food processor chute — cut as needed to jam them in there.

With an old fashioned box-grater, grate your onion. Why do I use the box grater instead of the food-pro? For the onion, getting it finely grated is important, and the box grater does a better job at that in my experience.

Dump the grated potatoes and onion in a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Gather up the corners and squeeeeeeeeeze. Then do it some more. Then let it sit for a few minutes while you clean up some dishes. Then squeeze it some more. You just want to get as much liquid out of that potato/onion mixture as possible. And believe me, there’s a lot.

Transfer dry potato and onion to a large bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. (I usually just use my hands.)

Beat eggs, then pour over potato mixture. Stir again to combine.

In the biggest cast-iron skillet you have, heat 1/4″ oil over medium-low heat. Once a piece of potato sizzles, it’s ready to go.

While the oil is heating, cover a wire cooling rack with a layer of paper towels. If you’re serving immediately, set your oven to 200 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and pop it in there.

Using your hands, form small patties (about 1″ in diameter”). I do a bit of a squeeze and fold maneuver, which helps remove any excess liquid and fold the potato strings over on themselves so the latkes stay together when you plop them in the oil.

Put latkes in the oil as you form them, so the oil has time to heat up a little bit between each one. Don’t overcrowd the pan — it’ll lower the oil temperature too much and your latkes will take forever to brown and get soaked with oil. I do 7 mini latkes or 3 big latkes per batch in my 9″ skillet. It’s a lot of batches.

Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on one side, until golden brown. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on the other side as well. Try to only flip it the one time — you’ll see the edges getting brown before the whole side is, so use tongs to lift an edge and give it a peek… you get the hang of it after doing a few.

Using tongs or a spatula, remove latkes and set on your paper towel lined cooling rack. I like to use tongs because I shake each latke over the pan to remove excess oil before placing on the rack. Let drain while you cook the next batch.

As you cook more batches, the oil level in the pan will start to drop. Top off as needed, making sure to let the oil heat back up before you add more latkes.

If you’re serving them fresh: after letting the oil drain off for a few minutes, transfer to the baking sheet in the oven, preheated to 200 degrees, to keep warm while you cook the rest.

If you’re freezing them for later: let cool completely on the rack. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet (I usually do this in batches while I’m still cooking the others). Put baking sheet in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to flash freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. They’re a little fragile, so put them on top of the mountain of stuff in your freezer rather than cramming them into a little cubby somewhere. To reheat, place in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets in a 300 degree oven. Heat for about 15 minutes, until warmed through. Drop temperature to 200. Remove a reasonable number of latkes to an appetizer plate, and replenish from the hot ones in the oven as needed.

Serve with bowls of chunky apple sauce and sour cream on the side. Or, if you’re feeling sassy, serve with…

Horseradish Sour Cream

1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish (depending on strength of horseradish and personal preference)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together in a small dish. Adjust seasonings if desired. Start small with the horseradish so you can add more as desired. Serve alongside hot latkes.

Make jalapeno popper dip to make people love you

So, this dip is everything you ever wanted from a jalapeno popper, only with way less active prep time. I love jalapeno poppers, so I don’t say this lightly. Make it. Just make it. Make it the next time you have some people over. They will love you forever.

Now, first things first, this recipe calls for a lot of jalapenos.

jalapenos

It may even seem like too many jalapenos, especially considering we’re leaving the seeds in. It’s really not. They’re sauteed briefly to mellow them out a bit, and they mellow out even more in the oven. Not to mention, there’s plenty of creamy stuff to balance the spice. Trust me.

There is one danger to making this dip. If you want to take a pretty photo of your completed dip, I recommend doing this before you set it out anywhere people may be able to access it. Otherwise you’ll turn around for a few minutes, and when you come back, you’ll be faced with this:

jalapeno popper dip

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Adapted from Jalapeno Popper Dip by Macheesmo

8-10 jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 heaping cups) cheddar cheese, grated (I like extra sharp)
2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 heaping cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Tortilla chips, for serving

Wash your jalapenos and remove the stems. Then quarter lengthwise, and dice ‘em up, seeds and all.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and find a 13″ x 9″ baking pan. No need to grease it. Really.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until it easily coats the bottom. Dump in chopped jalapenos and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until jalapeno is slightly softened and vivid green — about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder and oregano until it’s all fully integrated. Stir in grated cheddar to combine, then repeat with cooled jalapeno. Spread evenly into the 13″ x 9″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs and grated Parmesan until combined.  Tip for melting your butter: microwave it for a lot less time than you might think — I did two bursts of 15 seconds each for a full stick — and stir around to let residual heat melt whatever solid pieces are still left. That way you don’t have to wait so long for the butter to cool to use it. Anyway, pour your perfectly melted butter over the breadcrumb mixture, and stir until fully coated.

Spread breadcrumb mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture in the baking pan. Pop in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until bread crumbs are brown and toasty. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then serve with tortilla chips to ravenous snackers.

More rosemary garlic madness in the form of a white bean dip

So, I still have rosemary and garlic on the brain. Remember? I made this soup, and it was awesome. But for some reason I still can’t get the combo out of my head.

Luckily, this past weekend I went to a pumpkin carving party, so I figured I’d use this as an excuse to make bring something to nosh on; something garlicky and …rosemary-y?

So I went over to my friend’s house and looked like a creep again, cutting a bunch of rosemary sprigs out of what was obviously not my yard. “It’s okay!” I wanted to yell to passers-by. “I know them. They said I could take it. Really!”

To dip with, I made these Homemade Wheat Thins from Smitten Kitchen. Honestly, I would have just bought some crackers and veggies and called it a day. But… Deb mentioned in the original recipe that these crackers barely spread at all when they bake. This piqued my interest. It sounded like an ideal candidate for my awesome wood grain textured rolling mat.* I bought it almost a year ago and have only used it twice; once to make a yule log which was very successful, and once to make some graham crackers which were less successful. I figured these wheat thins would be a good opportunity to prove to my mister that it was definitely a necessary purchase, seeing as how I’ve used it three whole times.

I didn’t alter the recipe at all, but I will second her advice to roll the dough very, very thinly. And, you know… come back here when you’re done with the crackers to make this dip.

This is a party size dip, so feel free to halve it for a more modest portion. Or make the whole thing and use the leftovers creatively — it makes a great sandwich spread.

* You’ll notice that the 12″ x 16″ rolling mats on that site are expressly stated as not food safe, while there is no specification for the 8″ x 12″ mats. Both when I purchased it, and again at the time of posting this, I received confirmation by email that the smaller ones are food safe. If there’s uncertainty, please email them yourself before you order.

rosemary garlic white bean dip

Rosemary Garlic White Bean Dip
Adapted from White Bean Dip by David Lebovitz

16 ounces dried white beans
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup reserved bean cooking liquid
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil and rosemary to garnish

Rinse the beans and remove any debris. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let soak overnight.

There are differing schools of though on whether you should discard soaking water or whether it’s okay to cook with, so. Either discard the water and cover with cold water again, making sure you have several inches of water on top of the beans. Or keep the soaking water and add more if needed. Whatever makes your heart sing.

Add the bay leaves, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, leaving a gap for steam to escape, and cook until soft and falling apart, 1-2 hours depending on the type of bean you have. Remove the bay leaves, reserve some of the cooking water, then drain.

While your beans are cooking, mince your garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a small skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and cook very briefly, until just softened — about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put cooked beans, rosemary, garlic/oil mixture, additional oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in food processor. (Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do it in two batches and then stir them together in a bowl.) Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides down as needed. Add bean cooking liquid as desired to thin. Take a nibble, and add more salt and/or pepper if desired.

Put in a serving bowl and generously drizzle olive oil over the top. Toss on some more chopped rosemary, and serve with crackers and veggies.