Monday, May 19, 2014

Creole Pickled Squash: A Perfect Summer Topping

Credit where credit's due: I first had pickled squash on a burger at Toups' Meatery in New Orleans. And ever since, I've been in love. These briny morsels have a certain je ne sais quoi that brings the burger home. And with that sharp, juicy flavor, you wouldn't be blamed for snacking straight out of the jar.

When I was searching around for a great recipe, I was thrilled to happen upon Acadiana Table, whom I recognized from their recent SAVEUR nomination. And I was even happier when I adapted their recipe (with a few tweaks) and found it to be fantastic.

So here's how you do it—picking, canning, and all.

Creole Pickled Squash
(adapted from Acadiana Table)
Yield: two 16 oz. jars

3 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/8 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar (couldn't find sugarcane vinegar, despite living in Louisiana...)
1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seed
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sugar
2 16-oz jars
1 medium saucepan
1 large saucepan

1. Combine squash and onions in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables. Stir, then cover and refrigerate for one hour.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegars, spices, and salt to a boil (stirring to combine). Take squash and onions out of refrigerator. Rinse off salt and add to vinegar mixture. When the liquids have returned to a boil, turn off heat and let sit for thirty minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove lids and rings from the jars and place all components in the large stockpot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, sterilizing jars for five minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove the jars from the stockpot and place upside-down on a clean dish towel.
5. Once the squash is done pickling, lade it into the sterilized jars. Twist on lids. Return the water in the stockpot to a boil. Use tongs to return jars to the water. Lower heat to a simmer and process jars for ten minutes. Remove jars using tongs and let cool.

Recommendation: Burger topping! I made my patties with a 4-to-1 ratio of ground beef and pork sausage, and included shallots, thyme, oregano, and egg. Served on a kaiser roll with herbed aioli. It was delicious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Prosciutto-Wrapped Green Beans: Steak Sides

When faced with a big, juicy steak—and before that, the thought of searing that baby to perfection—it can be all too easy to eschew sides...and reason and composure. Steak!!

But if you're able to pull yourself together, delicately blot the drool from your mouth, and spend a little more time in the kitchen, you'll end up crafting a hearty and oh-so-satisfying square meal.

It's like having this one fantastic dress that you want to wear all the damn time—and then you take it to new heights with killer heels and one of those statement necklace thingies (probably not the best example, as I spend most of my time barefoot and not-very-bejeweled.) But you see what I mean.

Let's get to the food.

The green beans are easy to tackle. Quickly blanched, cooled, wrapped in proscuitto, and then browned on each side among minced garlic (with lemon juice squeezed over).

The potatoes I love because they're a slight twist on your usual potato recipe. You get the crispiness of fries or roasted potatoes, the spread and inner texture of mashed potatoes, and the cracked-open aromatics of a baked potatoes. Steak 'n potatoes—there's a reason why it's a thing.

Boil, smash, season, and roast.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Prosciutto-Wrapped Green BeansYield: 2 servings

For the potatoes
4 potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

For the green beans:
4 oz. green beans
2 slices prosciutto
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from one lemon

For the potatoes:

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, covered by at least two inches of salted water. Bring water to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until very tender (test with fork). Strain water from potatoes and cool under running water. 
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Once potatoes are cool to the touch, carefully smash them while keeping the potatoes intact. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.
3. Roast for thirty minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until potatoes' edges are golden brown and crisp.

For the green beans:
1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch green beans until they turn bright green. Transfer beans to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
2. Divide green beans into two bunches. Wrap with prosciutto.
3. Heat a grill pan to medium-high and add minced garlic, cooking till golden. Use tongs to place green beans in the grill pan. Squeeze lemon juice over each bunch. Cook for seven minutes, using tongs to flip over halfway through. Once flipped, squeeze lemon juice over the beans again.

Implied: your steak is searing to perfection. Put all together and serve!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Test Kitchen: Zucchini Hash with Arugula Mint Salsa Verde

I don't have the lengthiest attention span. Usually, I jump from new recipe to new recipe, a culinary globetrotter. Doesn't leave a lot of room for refinement.

Next Saturday I'll be doing a cooking demo at the local farmers' market, thanks in part to this little blog! I've worked in a professional kitchen and I've been demonstrating my recipes online here for a few years. But I haven't done a demo like this, so I want to bring something special.

You can find the final recipe at the bottom of the page, but allow me to take you through the process, with words and pictures.

I started with zucchini and tomatoes. I first made this Zucchini "Pasta" with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes last year, with zucchini ribbons, a traditional pesto, and a creamy lemon sauce.

On my first reworking, I used cherry tomatoes rather than vine-ripe, and I used the julienne setting on my mandoline to slice the zucchini into more noodle-like shapes. I replaced the creamy lemon sauce with a lemon yogurt sauce and opted for an arugula mint pesto, sweetened by honey and spiced by cayenne.

The results? The cherry tomatoes—topped with fresh garlic—were delicious, but I should have roasted them for longer at a lower heat, because they weren't evenly caramelized and had charred a bit at the bottom.

The pesto, which I added to bit by bit in the food processor based on taste tests, was good but its consistency too similar to the yogurt.

The noodles were too moist and could have used more seasoning. Not to say that the dish was a disaster—far from it—but it was easy to see where I could improve and how.

On to test two! I added yellow squash to the mix, still julienning the squashes but squeezing them dry before I cooked them—this time on higher heat with a little lemon pepper, going for a crisper noodle.

I went for slightly larger tomatoes, cutting them into eighths and sprinkling them with garlic powder rather than fresh garlic—mostly because the shape of the wedges made them not as conducive to topping with garlic slivers as the cherry tomatoes were. I tossed the tomatoes completely in oil and rotated the pan in the oven halfway through the roasting process, which ran for about an hour and a half at 250.

I used the same lemon yogurt sauce but instead of the arugula mint pesto, I grabbed some fresh arugula and mint, chopped it up, and mixed in honey, lemon juice, olive oil, and cracked black pepper.

And so we arrive at the final recipe. It's pretty...and pretty tasty.

Zucchini Hash with Arugula Mint Salsa Verde
Yield: 8 appetizer servings


For the zucchini hash:
2 large zucchini, peeled
1 large yellow squash, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted tomatoes:
1 large tomato, cut into eighths
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cracked black pepper

For the lemon yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Zest and juice from one lemon
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan)

For the salsa verde:

1 cup arugula, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 250. Place tomato wedges on  a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper, and toss tomatoes. Roast for an hour and a half, rotating the pan halfway through, until tomatoes are evenly caramelized.
2. Make the sauces. In two different bowls, combine the ingredients for each sauce. Cover and chill each sauce for thirty minutes.
3. Julienne the zucchini and squash. I used the julienne setting on my mandoline slicer, but you can do it by hand as well. Using a clean towel, squeeze the moisture out of the slices.
4. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and sautée for 2–3 minutes. Add in julienne squashes and cook, flipping often, until the slices are browned and starting to crisp.
5. To plate: Begin with a heaping mound of squash. Top with a dollop of lemon yogurt and a spoonful of the salsa verde. Tomato wedge on the side.