September 30, 2013

Spiced pickled sugar pumpkin

Recently, my husband was visiting with his aunt and she mentioned that her grandmother used to make pumpkin pickles. She said she hadn't had them since she was a kid - so as soon as he told me about this, I was on the job! I had never heard of pumpkin pickles before, so at first I turned to Google and came up with a few recipes, including this one that I partially used as a guide. I also have this little Heinz pickling book from the 70s that my mom gave me. Low and behold, there was a recipe for pickled pumpkin in there as well. The main differences in the ones I read were the spices people used. For me, I wanted to go with spices I associate more with fall and pumpkins, so my adapted recipe is below. I tasted one of the pumpkin pieces before putting them in the jars and it was pretty good. They need to cure in the jars for at least two weeks before you eat them though, so I expect that the flavor will continue to improve and they will take in more of the spice flavors.

This recipe will make 4 pints of pickles. I think these will be a nice fall treat and a great addition to a holiday cheese plate or relish tray. I also think they are pretty unique and would be a lovely gift to bring to a fall dinner. I'm definitely enjoying learning more about canning and preserving foods this year. Our stash is growing every week!

September 24, 2013

Peach and pecan streusel bread

This bread was a result of leftover peaches from canning. I canned seven quarts of peaches over the weekend and ended up with some peeled/cut peaches that I couldn't fit in a jar along with a few more extra whole peaches that were getting super ripe and very sweet. I spiced the bread with a little cinnamon and ginger and added pecans, making it a lovely combination of flavors and scents to make the transition from summer to fall. Also, whenever I have the opportunity to add a streusel to something, I tend to take it. I love the way it makes the top of the quick bread golden and crisp while the inside is soft and moist. I always cut down the sugar in my baked goods. Most quick breads call for about 1 full cup of sugar per loaf. Since we don't eat a lot of sugar, that's just too much for us. If you want a very sweet bread/more like a cake, feel free to increase the sugar. I think the streusel and using sweet seasonal fruits make this bread pretty sweet already.

This recipe will yield one 9x5" loaf. It would be adaptable to other fruits like pears and apples as well. You can change up the nuts and spices to have a new combination each time. Fall is my favorite season and I'm happy to welcome it with a warm slice of bread featuring the last of my summer fruits and a hot cup of tea.

September 20, 2013

Hungarian mushroom soup

I always get excited when soup season arrives. To me, soup is such a comforting dish to have on a cool day. Plus, there are so many different possibilities when it comes to soup. I think it's impossible to ever run out of ideas and recipes! This Hungarian mushroom soup is inspired by this recipe at All Recipes, the container of Hungarian paprika I had in my pantry, and my huge tarragon plant. I've made roasted cream of mushroom soup before, but I wanted to incorporate the spicier paprika into a soup along with some fresh tarragon. This soup is really delicious. It's also very rich from the milk and sour cream. I think it's best served as a cup of soup with a larger meal or as a lunch with some bread and a salad. I could have eaten the whole pot though. This recipe will make four servings and is a lovely way to warm up after being outside on a crisp autumn day!

September 17, 2013

Peach and cranberry chutney

I have been on a canning frenzy this year! So far I've done a whole lot of crushed tomatoes and sauce, tomato jam, watermelon rind pickles, crabapple mostarda, pickled green tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, zucchini-pepper sweet relish, and this chutney. I have a feeling that there's more to come, too. We haven't even gone apple picking yet! I have been canning more to really stock up our pantry with food for the winter. We have been getting food from my in-laws, from our small garden, and from the farmers' market that I've wanted to preserve. That way, this winter, I'll be able to crack open one of these jars and have an easy meal with peaches that were preserved at the peak of their season. Plus, I hope it will save money on produce over the winter. 

This chutney is adapted from a recipe at Food in Jars. I love her site and have her cookbook on my list of ones to pick-up. My husband was able to get a big bag of end-of-the-season peaches recently while up in Niagara County. The rest of the ingredients for this chutney were already in my pantry. I switched out the raisins for cranberries and made a few other adjustments. As always, when you are canning, make sure that if you make any changes they won't change the acidity of the end-product. This chutney will be delicious this winter spooned over pork or chicken. It would also be delicious with some cream cheese or goat cheese on crackers or a baguette. Plus, these make nice little gifts. This recipe will make 8 half-pint (or 4 pint) jars.

September 13, 2013

Stewed Indian-spiced eggplant, cauliflower, and chickpeas

It's the time of year when the produce harvest is really coming to its peak. That means I've been doing a lot of canning and coming up with creative ways to work as many vegetables as possible into our meals. This pot of stewed veggies is inspired by this recipe. I loved this dish because it used up a lot of stuff from my fridge - 1/2 head cauliflower, three little eggplants, a chile, onion.... plus some diced tomatoes I had in the fridge (I ran out of sterilized jars when doing my tomato canning over the weekend). On top of that, this dish is simple and really delicious. I've said before that I have a very well-stocked supply of spices. This is essential if you want to try to cook Indian food. I slowly built up my spices, often purchasing them in bulk, at the farmers' market, or at an Indian market near us, to get lower prices (they are much pricier in the regular grocery store). Once you have the spices, however, dishes like this are a cinch to put together and very healthy! They are very forgiving, too -- you don't have to use exact measurements of the vegetables and you can use different ones depending in what you have on hand.

Give this dish a try while all these veggies are in season. It makes a lot - so you'll be able to feed about six people. It makes great leftovers for lunch and would also be good to freeze for later. Serve with Basmati or other rice and top with plain yogurt that you've stirred a little fresh lemon juice into for a complete meal. 

September 9, 2013

Hasenpfeffer with dill dumplings

This recipe is a German classic and it comes from the fabulous The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking. I have been really loving this cookbook and all the recipes I have tried from it so far. I also really like rabbit and bought one earlier this summer with the intention of using it to make Hasenpfeffer as soon as the weather cooled down a bit. So this past weekend, I gave it a try. It is a very interesting dish where the rabbit is marinated in a pickling liquid and then pan-fried and and simmered in a sauce. The English name of the recipe in the cookbook is "jugged hare" which I imagine refers to the pickling marinade. And while the color is a little bland, the sauce is tangy and rich. It pairs nicely with the dill dumplings to sop up any remaining sauce. We also had some cucumber salad to round out the meal.

I have never seen a rabbit for sale in a grocery store. If you have trouble finding a rabbit, visit some farmers' markets in the area. We have found two farmers so far that sell rabbits. Rabbits are very lean and taste like a gamier version of a chicken, in my opinion. They can be a little tough because they are so lean, so they are best slow-stewed or braised. I'm still learning to cook them, but enjoy them every time I do. As we continue to move toward more sustainable and local foods, I think game meat and hunting will have more of a resurgence. This meal will serve about three people.

September 4, 2013

Tomato, bacon, and jalapeno skillet pie

September is here and with it came a cool down. I have been wanting to try this recipe from Homesick Texan since last year. We had some ripened heirloom tomatoes and a big bag of fresh jalapenos - so combining those with the cool weather made for the perfect time to finally give this a try. We loved this dish. I mean loved. It was a perfect bite full of layers of gooey cheese, slightly spicy jalapenos, salty bacon, sweet tomatoes, garlic, and a fluffy cornbread crust. This is one of those perfect summer-to-fall transition meals - a hot baked comfort dish that uses some seasonal late summer produce. 

I highly recommend trying this pie - especially now while tomatoes are in season. You won't regret it. You'll want to make it again and again. It will become a family favorite. Below is my adapted recipe that will serve about four people. Four very happy people.