Tag Archives: summer

In a Pickle

I get inspired by food in various ways. Sometimes travel will inspire my path of meals and recipes, like my recent trip back to Santa Fe. A visit to a local farmer’s market is always great for inspiration, with their abundance of fresh and healthy ingredients. Other times I will find inspiration online, through a plethora of food sites, blogs and recipes.

growing fresh vegetables in your garden taste great!

Red Jalapeños simply have spent more time in the sun than their green amigos.

But what inspires me most often, is what I already have on hand. Whether that be in the pantry, the fridge or in my own front yard, I try and maintain a fair amount of food staples at the ready. The ability to have choices allows for a more creative kitchen and table. Usually I will sit down over the weekend and ‘guestimate’ what we may have for meals the rest of the week. Depending on the season and weather, that will have the biggest influence on what get’s cookin’.

For example, if it’s 90 degrees outside (and therefore at least 80 degrees inside), the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven. A braise? No way. Casserole? Uh uh. And please, I love salads, but I usually don’t feel satisfied making an entire dinner out of one. And if you have kids in the house, you pretty much know this will never fly. A stove top or outdoor grill is always a good solution.

The New Mexican image for Peppers

Creative Pepper Placement is Phun!

But back to the inspiration part. Last week I was putzing in my very modest garden, the last couple weeks of summer coming to an end, the produce following suit. The remainder of our ‘bounty’ was limited to a few bits of arugula, and some jalapeño peppers. I grew jalapeños this year because it is one of the few peppers that I can actually grow with some success here along the Central Coast.

With all past attempts at cultivating bell peppers, poblanos and various other types of caspius here, it’s just not hot enough for an extended season to get those babies to bust out. They start with the proper growth, blossoms and hearty stocks, then the peppers start to come in, and…

They just never get any bigger. Like they just got tired and gave up. So I gave up too. But jalapeños like it here. And I like them, so it’s been a good match.

However, my use of these little guys hasn’t really been all that, well, here’s the word again: inspiring. They fought so hard just to make themselves big and strong in my little garden, and all I was doing was dicing them up in guacamole. Or slicing a few in a quesadilla. Quite frankly, I think they were a little hurt. Yes, I have a strange relationship with food, I know this. I honestly believe food has a soul, especially food that is grown from the earth, with sun, water and nourishment. Vegetables have souls; yes. Yes, they do.

Last month when I went back to Santa Fe, one of my girlfriends brought over a jar of homemade bread and butter pickles, which she made from my recipe (which I can’t find right now, but I’ll make a post of it later, I promise). Basically, it’s vinegar, pickling spice, sugar, some oil and not much else. Kirby cucumbers are sliced in nice size chunks, the vinegar and spices are brought to a boil, then the chunks of cucumbers are packed tightly in a few mason jars, and the hot liquid goes inside for the ride. After a few days, you have sweet, tangy pickles.

Well, kirby cucumber season is long gone, but I’ve got some cute little jalapeños that might like a vinegar bath, so I gave it a shot. Since I had only a meager pound of peppers (which would hopefully be pickled perfectly), I threw in some carrots and onions too. If I had some fresh cauliflower laying around, I would have put some of those florets in the mix as well.

The recipe came together in about 15 minutes. And no, I didn’t bother with the whole canning process because honestly, for 2 jars of the stuff, I figured the sheer amount of acid from the vinegar and the refrigeration would ward off any spoilage for a couple of months.

I tasted the recipe after a couple days in the fridge. Meh. I was disappointed. Not much flavor from the pickling spice came through; the vinegar was really overpowering and hadn’t mellowed like I had hoped. Boo. I promptly placed the jar back in the cooler and forgot about it until today.

What a difference a week makes. Wow.

I was rummaging through the icebox this afternoon, trying to throw a quick lunch together while watching some football, when I spotted the jars. I knew I had some whole wheat tortillas and some good queso fresco in house, so I whipped up a batch of quesadillas.

I simply took out a few of the peppers, some carrots and onions, diced them all up and threw them into the tortillas with the cheese. As they seared in the pan, I dug my fingers back into the jar, plucked out a pepper and tasted.

The vinegar had mellowed as I had hoped. It now blended with the pickling spices to create an earthy yet bold hit. The heat from the jalapeños were serious, and they had spread their joy to the carrots and onions. This was a hit!

pickling spice, vinegar and love

You can throw this recipe together while drinking beer and watching football. Score!

I can think of many great ways to serve this condiment. Throw some in a bowl the next time you make an antipasti platter. Tuck a few of these spicy treats in a panini before your grill it. Top your favorite burger or roast beef sandwich with a scattering of these delectable delights. Nachos? Oh yes. Jazz up a cheese pizza. Sprinkle some into your next batch of soup just before serving. One taste of these heavenly spiced bombs will hopefully convince you to ignore those jars of green grey, soggy ‘pickled peppers’ that have been camping on a shelf in your local grocery store for the last 18 months. Ick. Really.

Spicy vegetables are yummy

Jalapeños & Vegetables? Meet Acid & Spice. Get cozy.

These babies will make you sweat. They will make you smile. And when they are gone, they will make you sad.

The recipe below will make 2 pints of pickled vegetables. You can double this recipe if desired. And feel free to play with this recipe. Add some cauliflower, sweet peppers and baby corn to the mix. Get inspired. That’s the funnest way to cook!

Pickled Jalapeños and Vegetables makes 2 pints.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 2 dozen jalapeños
  • 1 cup vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1- 1/2 tablespoons pickling spices
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly

Directions:

  • Puncture each jalapeño with a toothpick or skewer, 3 or 4 times. Pack the peppers, carrots, onions and any other vegetables you may be using tightly in pint size mason jars.
  • Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil over high heat. Stir to combine well. Remove from heat and carefully pour hot liquid evenly into jars, to about 1/2-inch from the top of the jar. Seal with lids and screw tops tightly. (At this point, if you wish to make a larger batch and extend the shelf life, you can process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Click here for canning tips).
  • After mixture has cooled, place jars in refrigerator, and keep chilled. The mixture will be ready to eat in about 5-7 days. Mixture will keep refrigerated, up to two months.
Advertisements

A Normal Night

Today was a normal day. Dirk was out of the house/office, and I was home pretty much all day.

The rain came down hard and long, for the morning and early afternoon. I tried to placate Shadow from his normal morning run (and myself, honestly)!

Can I live here forever?

This is where we will be in a week.

It worked, until the rain subsided long enough to either get out for an hour, or lose that opportunity.

We grabbed the chance for an hour outside. And it was glorious! We were pretty much the only ones out on the Shoreline Path.

Coming home from our run at 1 pm vs. 10 am was odd, but we adapted. I made a quick lunch of carrots, celery and red bell pepper with roasted pepper hummus. A vegi burger on whole grain bread with tomato, lettuce and cheddar rounded out the meal.

Tonight’s dinner was a new(ish) recipe – roasted potatoes, shallots and garlic. Organic chicken breasts broiled with gruyere and smoked ham proved to be a fine meal indeed. Imagine a deconstructed Chicken Cordon Bleu, enhanced by a shwack of local watercress, tucked in for vegetable goodness, minus all the nasty breadcrumbs, butter and fat.

It worked.

The Sunset on the Pacific Coast

This is something I get to see all the time. I know, I am blessed.

Another break in the weather allowed me to hang out with Shadow for some catch and retrieve. He also got a good brushing, so he looks even more beautiful that usual.

Getting ready to hunker down inside with the furry one(s). Have a great night everyone!

Camping? Cooking? Yes!!!

Vacation options are lurking over here at the Casa Reynolds, and one of our favorite things to do is camp. We are definitely NOT talking about hiking in, hiking out camping. Car camping is more our style, although I really think (perhaps, hope is a better word), I can eventually convince my better half to try extreme camping at some point. We shall see.

The Boys in the Forest

Dirk and Shadow were born to be wild. In the forest.

Next weekend we are heading north for our first camping trip of the season, to our beloved area of Big Sur. We are going to take Shadow, the trusty wing puppy for his first camping adventure. I have no doubt he will love it. He loves road trips. As soon as we start packing anything, he knows we are going somewhere, longer than a few hours and insists on getting in the back of the car. Unless we relent, he is a pill.  This is regardless whether he comes with, or he goes to his own camp. As long as he is in the car, he knows an adventure awaits.

At this point, we can pack, clean and cook. Hell, we could probably go back to bed for a couple hours, and he would be just fine and dandy in the back of the Volvo. We even leave the back hatch open. He won’t budge. Good boy.

On to our camping needs. Pretty easy too.

Wine and herbs are lovely

You can't pack enough of this.

We are happy to load our gear, and head out. Sounds simple. Pretty much is, but of course it requires food for thought. Or rather, thought for food.

Camping sustanence needs to be easy. You are limited with space, time and cooking equipment. And as much as I love to cook, when enjoying the great outdoors, there are more important things to focus on; like staring at the beautiful ocean, mountainside, camp fire and bottle(s) of wine. Seriously. Priorities, people.

However, since so much energy and thought goes into a trip, you should have some rocking food to go along. You are worth it.

I’ve camped enough to find through trial and error what works wonderfully and what truly is a pain in the butt. Packing enough food items that are ready to serve or need minimal prep, will help you tremendously. A few kitchen tricks can prove to be the difference between a fantastic vacation, or a lesson learned that a camp full of hungry, cold campers is not a happy campground. Indeed. And, it will allow you and your cooking buddies to concentrate on one, incredible dish that will be remembered and discussed around future campfires for a long time.

That said, with proper planning and smart cooking, one can enjoy dishes such as Whole Grilled Fish, Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes, Crispy Baked Chicken, Chile Dry Rubbed Tri Tip and more.

How about Drunkin’ Cheese Dip? Grilled Breakfast Quesadillas? Yogurt with Spring Berries and Homemade Granola?

Oh, and don’t forget the dessert! Brownies, S’More bars and Fruit Cobbler anyone?

Dinner al fresco

Eating by candlelight? I could get used to this.

This week, I will be posting some of my favorite camping food recipes. Hopefully, they will ensure you work less in your outdoor kitchen and eat better than your neighbors, (who are struggling to light their campfire in the dark right now. Maybe you should bring them a few S’more Bars for strength. Oh, and some fire sticks).

You may find yourselves eating so well in fact, that frequent camping and culinary adventures could become a regular part of your schedules, allowing you and your family to come together under the big, open skies and land we are so blessed to have privy to. And that is truly the definition of a real vacation.

Does This Burger Make Me Look Fat?

Another day of Twenty Ten down. Today went a bit better. And some not so.

Yin and Yang.

Auto stick german made pride

This is my joy. And um, not so joy.

Let’s deal with the worst first. My mechanic finally surfaced to let me know my 74 Volkswagen Beetle is actually a 73 engine, so the ever so easy install of an alternator is a no go. Must revert back to a generator/regulator repair. No problem, except the wiring has been messed with, and blah, blah, blah.

All I heard at this point was $$$$. And again, I’m without a car for going on two plus weeks. Not real thrilled about that. Once this beautiful little car is up and running, I may consider selling it. *sobbing silently now*.

Better moments – a good run in the morning. Got the chimney cleaned and sorted out for a burn year. Cost more than I would have liked, but it’s now all up to code and thanks to Mr. Chimney Sweep (also a Montecito Fire Fighter), I am certain I will not burn down the house or a neighbor’s. Should be good for karma.

Yesterday’s binge still reared its ugly head today. Ugh. Sluggish and fat I felt. Note to self:

Next craving for a burger will have to be met elsewhere.

The warm Pacific Ocean awaits

This is what I love. Sun. Surf. Sand.

Today I ate better. Oatmeal for breakfast, a small salmon sandwich for lunch with the usual vegetable plate and fruit. Dinner was oven baked chicken, spinach and rice. Light on the rice. Light on everything actually.

In case you don’t know, we are headed to Zihuatanejo Mexico in 11 days for a week of much needed R & R. Bathing suit season will rear its ugly head in January, so it’s every man (and woman) for themselves. I am as ready as I can be. It’s not perfect, but it is what it is.

Good health and fitness is always a work in progress, so I don’t beat myself up for my discretions too much. As long as I eat fairly well, move daily and sleep decent I am happy. Dog knows I’m not 18 any more, nor can I try to be.

The ever increasing gray sprouting on my head will attest to that.

But everyday I rise and shine, go for a run or a good walk with Shadow and complete the daily tasks and challenges facing me, make me a happy girl indeed.

And if I can have a glass or two of wine at the end of the day, so much the better.

Yin and yang people, yin and yang.

Presto, Pesto!

The days of summer are winding down and it makes me a little sad. The glorious produce we enjoy locally alone makes it one of my favorite seasons. Now that we are into the second week of September (when did that happen?) I know it’s only a matter of time before summer is a fond memory.

Minimum ingredients, maximum flavor!

Minimum ingredients, maximum flavor!

I live on the Central Coast of California and while it’s still plenty warm here, there are subtle changes and hints of things to come. The light is becoming more intense in the sky and earth, the summer haze cleared by the fall breezes. Summer berries are not as sweet, on their way out until next June. Soon they will be replaced by apples and fall pears, perfect for a cinnamon crumble or crisp.

Even my humble garden is ready for a rest. A few tomatoes remain on their withered vines; some basil, thyme and rosemary have stuck around to keep them company. Tomorrow my tomatoes and basil will leave their soil beds and be enjoyed over the next few days.

My basil, one last triumphal bunch, will make a perfect batch of pesto. Pesto is not an epiphany in the culinary world, I know this. But its vibrant flavor and versatile ways make me a big fan.

Pulsing Pesto

Pulsing Pesto

I don’t recommend buying ready made pesto in stores. I find their ratio of oil and cheese overbearing, they are usually heavy handed with the garlic too, and the basil is almost an after thought. And honestly? I’m not a huge fan of pine nuts, the traditional nut used in ready made pestos.

I prefer walnuts but you could use pecans, almonds or even macadamia nuts. Olive oil is fine, walnut oil is lovely too. Even the basil itself can be replaced with a different herb, cilantro or parsley for example. A food processor will make quick time of the following recipe and will make enough for several meals.

The last batch of pesto I made was enjoyed in a ‘farewell to summer’ salad; a few splashes of balsamic and the pesto gave tremendous body and flavor to last of the summer tomatoes. I stirred a couple of tablespoons into some ready made mayonnaise and had first rate turkey pesto sandwiches for lunch. And a box of store bought cheese ravioli was a quick and delightful supper when I tossed them together with the last of the pesto, 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and some grated parmesan cheese.

I’m already thinking about the next batch of pesto I will make and the dishes I can create with them.

Whatever I come up with, I know it will allow me less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy the last few days of summer. Perhaps with a glass of wine, I will watch the sky soften, a gentle autumn hue on the horizon.

Basil Walnut Pesto

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Makes 1/2 cup – This recipe can be doubled if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of basil leaves, about 3 cups
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and cooled
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, about 1 ounce
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Combine basil, walnuts, lemon zest, salt and pepper in food processor and process to a coarse mixture. Add olive oil and cheese. Pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Transfer mixture to a ramekin or bowl. To store, top with olive oil to cover (this will prevent the pesto from blackening). Store wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.

You Say Tomahto…

Summer Tomatoes = Love

Summer Tomatoes = Love

I am finally able to post the Summer Gazpacho Soup recipe here for you.

After yesterday’s debacle, I found myself unable to sleep last night. I think I finally nodded off around 2 am, only to awaken again at 5. It was not the best way to start the day. However, I am pleased to report my caffeine induced nightmare is behind me and although somewhat sleep deprived, I am no worse for wear. I did refrain from coffee today though, and I am heeding my father in-law’s advice and having some red wine tonight!

Tomorrow’s post will take me down memory lane, and I’ll be writing about my early thoughts of food and how the comfort of familiar dishes can get us all through some bleak moments. For now, let us continue to enjoy the present and all its great summer flavors.

Mise en place for Gazpacho

Mise en place for Gazpacho

The key to this recipe is using the most gorgeous summer vegetables and herbs. Since this soup is cold and never cooked over heat where flavors can meld and intensify, I recommend you store this soup in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving. This batch improved greatly after a couple days of chill time.

Also, feel free to substitute cilantro for either parsley, basil or dill if you prefer. The vinegars can be traded out as well, balsamic or red wine, sherry or apple cider. I do find the acid of a Spanish Sherry Wine Vinegar is just perfect for this dish but honestly, use what’s in your pantry! As for the chile; if you like it, use it. If your palate is sensitive to heat, the soup will be lovely without it.

This is a peasant and rustic soup which is why I didn’t strain the finished product. I actually quite like the bits and flecks of color and textures swimming in my bowl. Also I figured the fiber alone from all the vegetables warrant leaving it as is.

Thanks to my brother and sister in-law’s lovely birthday gift this year, I whipped up this soup in 10 minutes flat. Cuisinarts and food loving family rule!

Chillin’ Summer Gazpacho Makes about 8 cups

Let your food processor do the work for you – a large rough chop of all vegetables are fine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 english cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small or 1/2 large spanish onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar, or vinegar of your choice
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Sixty Seconds to Soup

Sixty Seconds to Soup

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in food processor and mix until smooth and blended. Taste for seasoning. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours, up to 5 days. Adjust seasoning as needed before serving.

If desired, finish each bowl with a spoon of plain yogurt, some sliced avocado and chopped chives or your favorite herbs.

Please Pass the Coffee

Dirk and I have had the same coffee maker, a Phillips Senseo for the past 7 years. Sunday morning it started making this sad slow grinding noise, its motor strained and tired. After several attempts to restart the machine, our beloved Senseo was gone.

Finding a replacement machine has proved challenging, so we are without a coffee source in our home and office at the moment. This is not a good thing.

My first solution was to drag out our camping ‘coffee maker’ which is sort of like a french press, but with an aluminum container instead of glass. The coffee gets spooned in first, boiling water goes in, and the plastic top is fitted with a ‘plunger’. Wait a few minutes, press down on the cap to trap the grounds and voilà! You have coffee.

Just. Say. No.

Just. Say. No.

Bitter, grainy, sludgy coffee. Somehow I remember it tasting better out in the wilderness, but this brew was horrid. Since it was Sunday, we went out for breakfast and got our caffeine fix with our eggs.

Yesterday morning we held out as long as we could before heading up the hill to a proper coffee house, bringing two lattes back to the office.

This morning we tried tea at home, but it wasn’t working. I. Needed. Coffee.

I got in the car and minutes later returned with two double lattes. Much better. About an hour later, Dirk was in need of more java so off he went, returning with an Americano for me.

Bad idea.

One double latte + one large espresso drink = one jacked up Kitty. And not in a good way. I felt sick, edgy, I couldn’t sit still and my hands were shaking; I was on the verge of losing it, seriously. Only after several hours, a proper lunch and endless glasses of water am I starting to feel like I don’t want to jump out of my skin. I would compare it to a bad coke binge. Honestly, it was that awful.

Time to chill.

Soup's On!

Speaking of lunch, today we sampled my Summer Gazpacho and both of us gave it a thumbs up. Paired with some crusty bread, a little Spanish Ham and local grapes, it was a lovely meal indeed; a perfect respite from my crazy morning.

Tomorrow I will post the recipe for the soup. I love its simplicity. Toss all the ingredients into a food processor, refrigerate for a day or so, and you’ve got a tasty meal. I think the leftovers will make a repeat performance for Thursday’s lunch.

But a repeat of this morning? No thanks, I think I’ll pass.