Putting Up: Pickled Purple Okra

Now say that 5x fast!

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This summer has been challenging to say the least. On July 4th, I had a bit too much fun and tequila on the Brandywine River. Ever since, I’ve been banished to the first floor of my house with no less than 4 fractures in my right heel. Total. Summer. Bummer. Cooking, and obviously fun in general, were originally lacking from my daily immobile routine but, thanks to my trusty knee scooter, I’m back at the kitchen counter.

Picking up my farmshare from Greensgrow has also been a biweekly respite from my post on the couch. I’ve been steaming husk-on corn in the microwave, mixing donut/saturn peaches into Greek yogurt, cutting my carb intake with half spaghetti/half julienne zucchini dishes, and eating tomatoes in every way possible (mostly on bread slathered with mayo). With last week’s share, we also received $5 in Greensgrow bucks to use at the farmstand.  One of the farm volunteers was so helpful with carrying all my share items that I didn’t want to be my usual indecisive self with spending my “bucks”. So I quickly pointed at a few beautiful green & red tie-dye heirloom tomatoes and a basket of alien-esque purple okra. Look how weird and beautiful they are!

They’ve been sitting on my counter for damn near a week now, challenging me with my first encounter of cooking fresh okra. What to make? I heard suggestions of curry and duck gumbo, baking and frying… but I just wasn’t ready to have that much okra to eat right here, right now. So I referred back to two of my favorite things: my newfangled canning hobby and the amazingness of Food In Jars.

In about 3o minutes, from sanitizing jars to cleanup, I had a pint of beautifully pickled purple okra begging for a future next to some hearty BBQ or bobbing out of a bloody mary with my spicy dilly beans. I’m so excited to try these!

Small Batch Pickled Purple Okra

Recipe by Marisa McClellan – Food In Jars
Sourced from Mother Nature Network
Adapted to 8oz/0.5lb of okra to yield 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 0.75 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • 0.75 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 0.5lbs okra, washed and trimmed into 1inch pieces or leave whole
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

Equipment

  • 1 glass pint jar (16oz/
  • new lid and screw top
  • water bath canner or asparagus pot or stock pot w/ rack
  • jar lifter and lid magnet
  • canning funnel
  • 2 saucepans
  • clean dish towels
Directions
  1. Place  1 regular-mouth 1-pint/500 ml jar in a water canner. Fill both the pot, including the inside of the jar, with enough water to cover the jar by at least an inch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Place the lid and screw top in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.
  3. Remove  sanitized jar from simmering water canner with jar lifter and dump water back into canner. Place on a clean towel on your countertop.
  4. Put a lemon slice and 1 tablespoon pickling spice in the bottom of the sterilized pint jar. Then pack the okra in, first laying them in so that the points are up. Then insert another layer with the points down, so that they interlock. If okra is cut into 1inch pieces, pack in jar tightly to fill to 1inch from top of jar.
  5. Nestle 1 garlic clove among the okra in each jar. I like to smash my clove first, but that’s just a personal preference.
  6. Combine the vinegar, 0.75 cups water, and pickling salt in another small saucepan and bring the brine to a boil. Make sure all salt is dissolved by stirring gently with a non-reactive spoon.
  7. Slowly pour the hot brine over the okra in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  8. Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Expect alot more bubble release than a usual canning session as there are alot of pockets inside the okra. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary to 1/2 inch headspace. Discard leftover brine, if necessary.
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lid using the magnet, and screw ring to fingertip tightness. Place in water bath using jar lifter and bring water up to a boil.
  10. Once water reaches boiling, process for 10 minutes. Remove jar from water bath with jar lifter and sit on a clean towel on your counter to cool  for 24 hours. After 24 hours, test lid to made sure the “button” has inverted and is sealed properly.
  11. Store in a cool, dry place. Allow to cure for at least 1 week before eating.

I also want to take a quick moment to thank the family and friends, some of which came out of the woodwork, that have called me, sent cheers, got me out of the house, got me back into the house, driven me to doctor’s appointments, made sure I was well-fed, and visited over the last 6 weeks. And an extra special thank you to my dedicated boyfriend, Andre, who suffered through my control issue breakdowns, moved in without any empty drawers to put his clothes away, makes sure I’m up the stairs & showered, and just takes good care of me every day. You all mean the world to me!

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To Taste: Easy Garlic Knots

A few nights ago, I made tasty mini stromboli with a pocket mold I picked up at the VNA Rummage Sale. Both varieties – sauce, tomatoes, fresh garlic & mozzarella and a hearty mix of chicken & veggies – turned out really well. However, one of each kind was plenty to feed us for dinner and I was left with a half pound of white and half pound of wheat dough blobbed together. My budget is always important so food rarely gets wasted in my house, giving me an even better reason to get creative and tell you about it!

TIP TIME! A good pizza dough is pretty easy to make at home, but if you’re short on time, pick up a $1/lb ball of white, wheat, or herb from Trader Joe’s or stop by your favorite pizza place. They usually will sell you a ball of their dough for just a few dollars.

One of my fave extras to order from the local pizza joint are garlic knots, usually halved and reheated in the toaster oven for a midnight snack. They seemed like the perfect remedy for my extra pizza dough and were really easy to make. I gathered some fresh herbs from my garden and had the rest of the ingredients on hand as pantry staples. In under 25 minutes, I had a plate of knots and the most satisfying garlic breath ever!

Check out my Easy Garlic Knots recipe after the jump!

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To Taste: Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

I got alot accomplished today considering I spent Monday sick in bed, so I needed something quick & healthy for tonight’s dinner. A “buy one get one” spinach sale had left me with a whole bag to get through before it spoiled. I’ve been trying to get more protein, less carbs into my diet so lean chicken breast & white beans seemed like perfect accompaniments. I poked around the pantry for some added flavors and got to cooking. With the richness of balsamic vinegar and the aroma of thyme, I came up with a delicious, filling dish that was rich in iron, protein, & fiber and only 550 calories per serving. Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

2 Servings – 550 Calories each

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – (2) breasts, about 4 oz each
  • Olive Oil – (0.5) T + (0.5) T
  • Balsamic Vinegar – (2) T
  • Dried Thyme – (0.5) tsp
  • Chicken Stock – (0.75) cup
  • S&P
  • Garlic – (2) cloves, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Fresh Spinach – (1) pre-rinsed bag or (0.5) lb
  • White Beans – (1) 15.5 oz can, drained & rinsed
  • Worcestershire Sauce – (1) tsp
  • Sriracha – a few squirts of your fave hot sauce
  1. Heat (0.5) T of Olive Oil on medium in a non-stick saute pan (with lid for later).
  2. Rinse chicken breasts under cool water & pat dry. Sprinkle one side with S&P.
  3. Place seasoned side down in hot pan. Sprinkle other side.
  4. Brown for about 4 min. Flip & brown other side.
  5. Add Balsamic & Thyme to pan. Bring to boil & flip chicken to other side. Reduce liquid for about 3 min.
  6. Add Chicken Stock. Bring back to boil. Reduce liquid to half for about 5 min.
  7. Remove chicken from pan & set aside.
  8. Add (0.5) T of Olive Oil to pan & heat on medium. Add garlic & saute for 1 min.
  9. Add onion & reduce heat to medium low. Allow onions & garlic to simmer for 5 min, stirring occasionally.
    • If you want to add chopped tomato or bell peppers, this would be a good time. Saute for about 5 min before moving on to the next step.
  10. Add a few handfuls of spinach & place lid on top. Return heat to medium.
  11. Once spinach reduces by half, stir & add more handfuls. Return lid.
  12. Continue adding handfuls of spinach until all is wilted
  13. Add Worcestershire & Sriracha. Add White Beans. Stir.
  14. Simmer on medium for about 5 min.
  15. Place chicken on top of Spinach & White Bean mixture. Return lid & heat for about 1 min.
  16. Serve & Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken w. Sauteed Spinach & White Beans

Restaurant Rewind: Date Night @ Sampan

I love date night! On a Friday in early March (bear with me, I’m a bit behind), Dre & I made plans for dinner at Sampan, the new hot spot I’ve been dying to try.  We walked into the bustling restaurant early for our 930pm reservation and sat at the bar for some cocktails. First on the drink list, and my choice, was the Blood Orange Martini w. Gin, Lillet, & Blood Orange. It a great balance of sweet & tart, but I was really jealous once I sampled Dre’s crisp Yuzu Sake Martini w. Gin, Elder Flower, & Lemon Grass. So far, so good!

Dre noticed that there was counter seating overlooking the energetic open kitchen. The hostess confirmed that a twosome was about to pay their bill and seats would be opening up. SCORE! What more could a foodie ask for than to watch the magic happen (under great lighting,too!). We got to know the cold line chefs, Matt & Onna, along the way and oggled the food porn they effortlessly executed. I’m always refreshed by a culinary team so dedicated to their craft.

Tuna w. Avocado, Puffed Rice, Flat Bread, & Spicy Sauce

Earlier in the week, I met Michael Schulson, the man behind Sampan, at a Philadelphia Weekly sponsored panel discussion on “Chefs, Bloggers, & the Blogosphere.” After the event, Chef Schulson graciously indulged my request for some personal menu recommendations. I definitely took his suggestions seriously! While we waited for each of our 7 carefully selected dishes to arrive, we sipped Sampan’s monster cocktail, the Scorpion Bowl – 64 ounces of rum, gin, white win, & fruit juice. It was really tasty, impressively strong, & lasted through the whole dinner. Our first dish, the Edamame Ravioli was light, tender, & perfectly enhanced with white truffle oil.

Sampan's Edamame Ravioli w. Truffle, Shoot, & Sake Broth

I always like to try different interpretations of the famous Philly Cheesesteak and we really enjoyed Chef Schulson’s version. The braised beef was rich & savory, accented with crispy shallots & Sriracha’s perfect heat.

Philly Cheese Steak w. Bao Bun, Shallot, & Sriracha

Next, a contrasting plate of cool freshness arrived. Chilled poached lobster nuggets laid under a simple pico of flavor-packed chopped tomatoes & garlic speckled with tender black beans for a perfect intermezzo between savory dishes.

Lobster w. Black Bean, Tomato, Garlic

I love bulgogi, so the Korean BBQ Beef Satay was a no brainer. Double-enforced skewers pierced tender ribbons of marinated medium-rare short rib topped with traditional kim che. They were a bit too pink for Dre’s liking, but that just meant more for me to savor.

Korean BBQ Beef Satay w. Short Rib, Bulgogi, Kim Che

The following dish may have be my favorite & the most interesting. I was excited to see the flavor combination & presentation of hiramasa, a sustainable substitution for yellowtail, bacon, arugula, & a pear kim che. The menu may tell you what you’re getting, but in most instances not how you’d expect to get it. From the deconstructed spicy tuna (see the photo above of Ona preparing this dish) to the current plate in front of us, Sampan’s surprises always seem to please. I really loved this dish. Beyond the interesting plating, the flavor blend was spectacular. I took the time to include a morsel of each element on my fork for each bite. The clean hiramasa fillets, painted with a peppery arugula puree, were a flawless palate for smokey bacon and sweet & spicy pear kim che. The portion was impressive and I still could have eaten another plate!

Hiramasa w. Bacon, Arugula, Pear Kim Chi

Another interesting take on a traditional dish was Sampan’s Peking Duck. The tender duck meat was pulled & served with foam in a small glass jar. The accompaniments included julienne cucumber, shaved scallion, & tamarind pancakes to build your own Peking Duck soft taco.

"Peking" Duck w. Tamarind Pancake, Scallion, Cucumber

Our final dish was a last minute decision and a menu item I’d been eyeing since before we made reservations – the Wonton Taco. The wonton wrapper, crisped in the deep fryer into a perfect hard taco shell, was stuffed with spicy succulent rock shrimp balanced with blood orange & avocado. We were one of a few tables left & we scarfed them before I could snap a pic.

Sampan’s energy and delicious cuisine were a perfect setting for another amazing date night with Dre. I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d want to “mmm & ahh” over an impressive dinner with!

Next trip to Sampan – bahn mi & homemade ice cream!

Quickie: Grilled Somen Tuna Steak & Chili Oil Bok Chok

Waiting on the new external, so here’s a quick little treat to hold you over! I defrosted an individual tuna steak, marinated it in Somen dressing, & seared it on each side. While my grill marks set, I tossed baby bok choy in my wok with Somen dressing, chili-infused macadamia nut oil, minced garlic, chicken stock, & a splash of fish sauce until wilted and flavorful.  In under 15 minutes, I had a perfect, healthy dinner for 1.

Grilled Somen Tuna & Chili Oil Bok Choy

To Taste: Baked Toni

I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.

Fat Rigatoni

While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.

Baked Toni

Baked Toni

  • Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
  • Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
  • Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
  • Garlic – (1) T, minced
  • Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
  • Dried Basil – (1) T
  • Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
  • S&P – to taste
  • Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
  • Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
  • Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
  • Grated Parmesan – to taste
  • Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
  • Olive Oil – as needed
  1. Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
  2. Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
  3. Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
  5. Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
  8. Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
  9. Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  10. Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
  12. Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

VDay Din: Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu, Tarragon Dijonnaise, & Champagne-Asparagus Risotto a la Dre <3

Dre always has a plan. He had a shopping list prepared for our grocery trip, did prep work Saturday night, and researched recipes for cooking on Sunday. I dig that kind of organization in a man.

The breakfast he made me was amazing, so I was looking forward to the dinner on Dre’s Vday menu. I was especially impressed with his ambition. Saturday night, Dre trimmed chicken breasts & marinated them in a habanero-buttermilk mixture. We both almost choked to death, not realizing how crazy hot those peppers are!

On Sunday, Dre seasoned & double-breading the breasts before frying them to perfection in my Cool Daddy. He topped them with crisped slices of prosciutto & Jarlsberg Swiss cheese, paired them with his homemade Tarragon Dijonnaise, and proudly declared it fried chicken cordon bleu!

On our shopping excursion, Dre picked up a bottle of champagne. After no mimosas for brunch, I got curious about it’s part in our Vday. Little did I know, but not only was Dre making a creamy batch of risotto, he was perfecting it with the bubbly and some fresh asparagus. I’m so proud of my Valentine!

Fried Chicken Cordon Bleu, Tarragon Dijonnaise, & Champagne-Asparagus Risotto