Choose Your Own Adventure Pickles

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

Are you doing a garden in Florida? I hope so, because you’ve got the weather for it. Fall is right around the corner in Tennessee, and this is the first year I’ve actively tried to harvest as much as I could from my garden before the cold sets in and it all just withers and rots on the vine. (Pesto email coming soon)

The biggest producer we had this year was our lone banana pepper plant, which I’m sure is trying its hardest to keep growing in the chill night air as I type this. Yesterday I collected everything could from the plant, and added it to a bag of peppers I had collected about two weeks ago. The bounty was too much to waste, so I decided to pickle them with the last of my cucumbers and all the dill that hadn’t gone to flower. I also ran to the store and bought some jalapeños and garlic for good measure.

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If you haven’t made pickles before, shame on you. Pickles are one of those wonderful items that are not only cheaper to make on your own, but are way better tasting than store-bought. And the effort is nearly nil. I don’t own a canner, a pressure cooker, or any other fancy equipment. In fact, the only “canning equipment” I use are Ball jars and a jar grabber.

The caveat here, though, is that I make small batches that I know won’t last longer than a month or two. Canning can get sketchy as a long-term investment, so what I’m suggesting here is a small batch arrangement for short term use.

With any canning, cleanliness is key, so sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them in a large stock pot filled with enough water to cover the jars halfway. Fill the jars, cover with a lid, and boil for 10 minutes. Then set the aside on a towel to cool.

(Good practice here dictates that I say that most people recommend putting your filled jars back pot of into the pot and boiling the contents for another 10 minutes. I don’t do that, but again, I eat my pickles pretty fresh, I’m not squirreling them away for Armageddon. Plus, not boiling the filled jars also keeps the pickles crisp!)

So that’s the cleanliness aspect, but what about the ingredients?  The first question people ask when talking about pickles isn’t, “What vegetables do you pickle?”  It’s, “What do you soak them in?” Now what I’m about to unload on you isn’t a recipe, but an easy to remember formula. Making pickles is like making beer, just learn the formula, and then go balls deep into the great unknown. The only ingredients you need to know are these:

  • 1-cup water to 1-cup white vinegar, add one tablespoon of pickling salt. (Just remember one-to-one-to-one) Mix as much of this solution as you need, and bring it to a boil.

That’s it. The veggies and spices are all yours to mix. Take your cooled, sanitized jars, stuff them to the gills with whatever veggies (or fruits) and herbs you want, and top it off with the boiling water/vinegar mix. Seal the jars, set them in the fridge for two weeks, and you’re done. It takes me less than an hour, start to finish, to make a half dozen jars, but I sometimes like to make them one or two jars at a time, just to have around.  It’s that easy.

There is no limit to what awesome pickles you can make. Spicy pickles with squash and jalapeño, curry pickles with carrots, lemon and rosemary pickles (I learned the hard way to go easy on the rosemary). You can seriously get Bubba Gump Shrimp about it. I personally like the spicy pickles with a loaf of homemade sourdough baguette and a slice of Camembert cheese. Great goofily moogily.

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Gourmet Hot-Pockets; or German Pretzel Calzones

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

I know you’re not a bread man, but I also know you’ve agreed to eat my sourdough the next time you’re in my kitchen. So maybe you can find someway to make this happen in your house in the meantime.

Have you ever made pretzels? I hadn’t, but seeing as how this is the first Oktoberfest since I’ve really (half) mastered the art of the dough, I thought I would give it a shot. I wanted to make pretzels, but I also wanted to do something a little more exciting, so I came up with the idea of stuffed pretzels. And what better German foods to stuff into pretzel dough than pork and cabbage? I’m sure I’m not the first person to do something this, but this recipe was 100% Daniel.

Since reading The Butcher’s Guide to Well Raised Meat, I’ve been obsessed with pork, and not just pork, but overlooked cuts of the pig. And at the Three Rivers Co-op in Knoxville, there’s usually a few packages of local country-style pork ribs from Jem Farm. Country pork ribs are a cheap, fatty cut that more resembles tiny, super fatty ribeye steaks than the traditional image of pork ribs. Cheap + fatty = YES!

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My idea was simple; roast some pork and cabbage, stuff it into pretzel dough, cook it on my stone. The only adaptation I had to add was to boil the pocketed mess before baking. (Boiling is apparently the key to good pretzels and bagels.)

So here we go:

Filling:
About a pound of country style pork ribs.
Onion (I used 4 chipolline onions – think a hybrid yellow onion and shallot)
About 1/4 head cabbage
2 tbs Dijon mustard. I use Lusty Monk Original Sin
6 Juniper berries dried
1 tsp caraway seeds
Broth (I used homemade chiclet broth)
High heat oil
Salt and pepper to taste

This is easy peasy. It’ll save dishes if you use an all metal pan, which you can use on the stove and in the oven.

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1) Preheat oven to 225º.

2) Salt and pepper room temperature ribs, and sear on high heat for 30 seconds each side, or until brown. Remove from pan.

3) Sautee the onions in the remaining fat and oil until clear.

4) Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of broth, and add the cabbage to the onion mix. Add enough extra broth to simmer, but no smother, the cabbage. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5) Stack the pork ribs in the pan, placing some of the cabbage and onion mix above the ribs and some below it. Cover tightly with tin foil and place it in the oven for at least three hours.

6) When done, set aside to cool, preferably in the fridge, where the fat will congeal. When it’s cool, find and remove the juniper berries.

Dough:

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1) Preheat oven to 450º, with a pizza stone if you have one.

2) Look up a pretzel recipe, and do that. (I used my regular sourdough pizza dough recipe, and it worked great.)

3) Instead of rolling your dough into neat little tubes and making pretzels, roll it into an even number of flat square (or circles, just make sure they’re roughly the same size). Given this recipe, you can expect to make 4 good sized pockets, which means you’ll need 8 dough plates.

4) Stack your meat into the center of the dough, and over with a matching piece of dough.

5) Brush the edges with egg wash (Egg wash wlll be in your pretzel recipe, I guarantee it.) and place a second piece of dough on top. Press the edges together with a fork. (You can see from my pictures that I went with the single-piece/fold method, but that created a few thick dough pockets that would be avoided by using the ravioli method.)

6) Boiling will also be in your pretzel recipe, along with a recommended ration of water to baking soda. I recommend not skipping this step, since it really gives the chewy consistency you want. Sooooo…..boil your hot pocket for 30 seconds, flipping it once in the middle.

7) Remove the pocket from the water, let it sit for a minute to cool, and then brush it with egg wash and sprinkle it with kosher salt.

8) Bake it until the crust is a deep, even brown.

9) Let that shit cool for a while! Maybe drink an Ayinger Oktoberfest will you wait.

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Dude, this is pure American indulgence, but the flavor is strictly German. The pork mix is good enough to just eat by itself, but when it’s wrapped in a brown, chewy pretzel, it just makes you want to listen to oomph music and get hammered. I served it with a heaping scoop of Lusty Monk mustard on the side, which just fueled the need for more beer. It was a heavenly cycle of burn and belly bomb.

As you can see, I also made some straight-up pretzels for Jenny. Her reaction was, and this is an exact quote; “What the hell, Daniel?! You can make pretzels?”

Korean Shrimp Tacos

Hey Dude,
I made some fantastic Korean tacos tonight for friends visiting from California, and the flavor balance was perfect.

About 1 pound shrimp
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves minced garlic
Crushed red peper
A little ginger powder
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
A few shakes of Adobo seasoning

Combine all of these ingredients in a tupperware container, shake, and set aside to marinate.

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You will also need:
Cilantro, tortillas (preferably corn), red onion, Sriracha, pepper jack cheese, and prepared kimchi (easy to get at an Asian grocer, or make yourself).

Meanwhile, prepare any sides (I did spanish rice and refried beans with organic salsa), cook your tortillas, chop up a good deal of cilantro and fresh red onion (I guess you’d want to sautee these, but I like them raw), and chop up some of the kimchi so it’s not in such big pieces. Shred the cheese.

Cook the shrimp in a skillet, stirring and sifting from time to time. When most of the liquid cooks out, you should be done.

Combining the ingredients is simple: tortilla, shrimp, cheese, kimchi, onion, cilantro, and a single line of Sriracha. These are really good, simple, tacos. And my friend said she DOES NOT like kimchi, but she thought it was great in these tacos.

That’s it! I’ll send a photo over.

Chorizo, Bacon, and Eggs Rutabaga Hash

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 8:19 PM

Hey Dude,
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written an email with a legitimate winning “recipe.” So I’m going to give it a shot here. I was inspired for this recipe by this cauliflower bacon hash here, thanks to a Facebook ad today. But I deviated quite a bit, so I won’t bother explaining the differences.

I love breakfast hash, but I almost never order it, because Hash House A Go Go in San Diego has ruined all other hashes for me. Until now, because now I have a legitimate hash of my own. (BTW – they have a Hash House A Go Go in Orlando now, may be worth checking out, and they have vegetarian options.)

So this is basically a SUPER EASY Mexican-food-inspired, high-fat, low-carb (or maybe lowER-carb), Paleo feast. Mine majored on animal fat, since I used chorizo and bacon and incorporated ALL of the fat, but I wanted to make sure it was sharable and adaptable for a vegetarian. To make up for the fat, I’d say use coconut oil (it will change the character quite a bit), or olive oil. And then use meat substitutes for the chorizo (like Upton’s Natural Seitan, though a gluten product, it’s the best tasting and least processed vegetarian chorizo I’ve had) and bacon (maybe omit the bacon, because veggie bacon makes me sad).

Okay, enough of the mouth running. Let’s get down to business. I’m just going to bold the ingredients through the description.

Somewhere along the way you need to fry enough eggs for however many servings you’re going to have. I split this two ways, and did two sets of three eggs. These will go on top of the hash.

First, cook 10 oz. beef or pork chorizo in a skillet while cooking 5 or 6 pieces of bacon in a second skillet. When just about ready, remove the chorizo and bacon and set aside, and combine the fat of the two meats into one skillet.

Add a handful of diced onion bits to the fat, and cook over medium heat or so. After a couple minutes, and a teaspoon of minced garlic (a clove or two) and a 4 ounce drained can of sliced mushrooms. Cook for another couple minutes, but don’t burn anything.

Add 3/4 lb diced rutabagas from the frozen section of the grocer, and stir in until the frozen bits have all fallen off, then add 1/2 tsp. of paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until you feel like everything is coming along nicely. Sip some wine. Drink some beer. I don’t know.

What follows (and the spices), I mostly lifted from the other recipe. Well, until the end. You’ll see.

Add three or four Tbs. water and cover for a few minutes.

Return the meat to the hash, along with the juice of a whole lemon (they use half).

After a couple of minutes dish it into to four bowls (this is a hearty meal for two), cover with the fried eggs, pour a few teaspoons of El Pato Jalapeno Salsa (from the Mexican section of the grocer, sub a superior salsa if you wish) on top of the eggs, and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

That’s it. Everything was pretty much packaged in some way (even the lemon in its rind) or could be (frozen diced onions). The whole thing took about twenty or twenty five minutes from start to finish.

The finished product was every bit as satisfying as white potato hash—maybe even more—and I think the starchy carbs were reduced to about 1/5 of potatoes.

Enjoy!

from: Jamey W. Bennett 
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 12:01 AM

Oh, I forgot a crucial ingredient that makes it a little more south of the Border and less of a rip-off! I used a 10oz can of diced tomatoes and green chilies (medium heat) when I added the lemon. They warmed up in the couple of minutes left in the cook. I can get the Ro*Tel brand for $1 at Dollar Tree or Target. They were a wonderful component, and I didn’t want to cook the life out of the tomatoes, so I thought adding them at the end would be like two minute hops in homebrew. ;)

from: Daniel Larkin
to: “Jamey W. Bennett” 
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 9:08 AM
subject: Re: Chorizo, Bacon, and Eggs Rutabaga Hash

I saw a Cauliflower Hash recipe on Facebook, and I’ve actually been planning it in my head ever since. My plan was to go with tempeh pre-boiled in a mix of water, soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire, and liquid smoke. I’ll go with your spices and tomato/chili mix for sure. This has Brinner written all over it.

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Wow, that’s quite a different direction, and sounds delicious.

[Note: Pictures were taken of this, but seem to be lost to the author. Apologies.]

Hawaiian Poke with Bragg Liquid Aminos

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

DOOD.

Have you ever had poke? Do you even like sushi and such? I don’t know if we’ve ever had this conversation.

I’ve loved sushi rolls for years, but when I lived in Hawaii, I was turned onto a much broader world of sushi. In particular, I fell in love with sashimi and a distinctly Hawaiian dish known as poke. There was a grocery deli Kona side I used to go to that had about 8 or 9 types of poke, stretching the definition a bit from one to another, but not stretching the amazing flavor.

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Essentially, poke is a bowl of raw fish, onions, soy sauce, and spices, and often includes sea weed and other items. It’s probably more of a sub-class of ceviche, but the flavors and spices are on the Asian spectrum, rather than the Hispanic spectrum like ceviche.

While poke is usually done with fresh ahi tuna, I had some mahi mahi filets on hand and decided to give it a shot. And sure enough, it was great.

I didn’t measure anything, so I’ll just tell you in paragraph form. In a bowl, combine diced onion (I used white), minced garlic, ginger powder (or even better with fresh grated ginger), crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt, a splash of sesame oil, a generous helping of Bragg Liquid Aminos (soy sauce is more traditional), and two scoops of chili-garlic sauce (Huy Fong, same brand as “rooster” sriracha). Stir this up.

Chop your raw fish filets into small cubes. Toss with the goodies in the bowl. Let it rest for awhile for the flavors to meld. Serve as an appetizer or main course, and eat it with chop sticks, of course!

One nice optional touch. I keep furikake on hand, a Japanese condiment for rice—also something I discovered in Hawaii—which contains sesame seeds, sea weed, etc. A few shakes on top of the fish adds a really nice touch.

Enjoy!


jamey w. bennett

Vegan Taco Onslaught!!

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Daniel Larkin:

to Jamey Bennett

Traditional tacos filled a with lentil and mushroom base, and curry tofu and chickpea tacos in a soft tortilla.  Well, that’s really only two, but it kinda counts as an onslaught, right?  Now this looks like a long email, but bear with me because it’s two back-to-back meals that fold seamlessly into each other with very little effort!

I don’t know if I told you or not, but the doc told us that Charlie has some food allergies.  They should pass as he gets older, but in the meantime, Jenny has been told to avoid milk and peanuts while she breastfeeds.  Since Jenny is already vegetarian, that almost veganizes her diet.  (She still eats eggs)  So we’ve been really trying to create new whole food, meatless and dairyless recipes, and for the most part, we’ve had some really great successes – especially these two that I made over the weekend.  VEGAN TACOS TWO WAYS!

These two make great back-to-back meals because they share a ‘creamy’ avocado, lime and cilantro sauce.  And while these are both technically tacos, their flavors couldn’t be more different.  The best part is that both are ridiculously simple and only use a few easy to find ingredients.

OK, we’ll start with the sauce, since that’s the common denominator in both recipes; the Avocado, Lime and Cilantro ‘Cream’ Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 ripe Haas avocado
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • A good palmful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Put all of these things into a blender, and viola!  That’s it.  You’ll never want sour cream for your tacos again.  I promise.

Now, this makes enough to top all of your tacos, with enough left over to make slaw for your curry tacos.

But let’s start with the Lentil and Mushroom Tacos.  This is going to look stupid simple, because the only thing I was worried about was the “meat” base.  If you’ve got a taco seasoning mix or recipe you prefer, use it.  I’ve made my own taco seasoning before, and for the life of me, I just can’t compete with the 95 cent packets at the grocery store.  Or better yet, I just buy a taco kit.  Again, the only thing I worry about is the filling.

  • 2 cups prepared lentils cooked in veggie stock. (I won’t go into cooking details because different lentils cook differently)
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms finely chopped.
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp each soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of liquid smoke (optional)
  • Any extra veggie stock you didn’t use on the lentils
  • Packet of favorite taco seasoning

This is easy:

  • Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (until they start to shrink)
  • Add lentils, tomato paste, soy, Worcestershire and liquid smoke.  (Stir this around and check the consistency.  You want extra liquid because it’s going to cook down, so if it looks stiff, add veggie stock.)
  • Slowly add seasoning mix, tasting as you go.  (I say slowly because all of these packets are different, and it’s easy to end up with a salt bomb)
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.  You’re looking for a semi-loose consistency, like beefy taco mix, so don’t be afraid to keep adding stock as you go.

Top those bad boys off with all the usual fixin’s using the tofu cream sauce instead of sour cream. The lentil and mushroom texture will more than fill in for the beef, and the flavor is more smokey and robust than any ground beef.  You’re welcome.

OK, so you’ve enjoyed your traditional tacos one night, but you still have a shit load of tofu and avocado sauce left over.  What do you do?  You make some Vegan Cilantro/Lime Slaw to go with your curry tacos, that’s what!

  • Buy a prepackaged bag of coleslaw veggies.
  • Add a handful of rough chopped cilantro, 2 tbs of lime juice – salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now mix in the left over tofu sauce until you get a good slaw-like mixture.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two.

The Tofu/Chickpea Curry Tacos are really the crown jewel of this whole thing, and they’re also the simplest thing to make.  There is really no heavy cooking involved, just mixing and simmering.  With my slaw premade, I had these tacos on the table in about 30 minutes.

  • 1 lb block extra firm tofu – well pressed and chopped into small cubes.
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (optional)
  • I can prepared chickpeas – drained
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbs green curry paste (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • soft tortillas
  • roasted cashews, chopped

And the cooking on these is so simple, it’s ridiculous!

  • First, saute the onion and tofu on high heat for 5 minutes (use coconut oil if you have it)
  • Add next five ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Turn off heat and mix in the cherry tomatoes, basil and lime juice.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes while you warm tortillas.

Pile that shit on!  The curry mix should stiffen a bit, but make sure you get enough sauce in each tortilla.  Then top it with slaw, more cilantro and lime juice, cashews, and of course Sriracha.

The taste is amazing!  It’s subtle enough for you to pick out every flavor, but balanced enough that they all sing in perfect harmony.  These are the best things I’ve made in  while.  Seriously.

Now go make tacos!

Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, May 20, 2013 at 9:16 PM
subject: Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

Dude,
I already gave you a sneak peek via text message, but I’ve gotta tell you—Mexican hot dogs are the shit. Which is funny, because they’re sometimes called Danger Dogs.

My first experience with Mexican hot dogs is with the variety known as Sonoran Dogs. Philly has the cheesesteak and Tucson has Sonoran Hot Dogs. Named after nearby Sonora, Mexico, these things are incredible, but unless you live in Tucson and have access to the amazing and famous El Guero Canelo or a street cart equivalent, these are tough to come by.

The exception is places like Los Angeles, where you can find little old ladies who have turned old metal trash cans into grills, and can be seen cooking these over a fire on cookie sheets at 2 am to sell to all the drunks coming out of the bars. I first enjoyed this completely unregulated health department Danger Dog nightmare with Pigeon John and King Charismatic after a Rootbeer show in the wee hours of the morning. The second time? Right before seeing LA Symphony and Wu-Tang tear it up. Let’s just say these dogs go well with good times.

My love was rekindled at a local cantina here in Philly. Their food is typically expensive, so when they added $3.50 Mexican hot dogs to the a la carte menu, I was getting them on the semi-regular with free chips and salsa. They recently doubled the price to $7 a dog, so I decided it was time to discover my own dogs.

So anyway, what makes these dogs special? Bacon. And peppers. And everything but the kitchen sink. The basic idea is that you wrap a hot dog wiener in bacon, and put it on a bun with a whole bunch of other stuff. The Danger Dogs in California (in my experience) are usually served with sauteed onions and peppers and whatever condiments you want. The Sonoran Dogs get crazier, usually dipping the dog deep in big buns, and slathering everything on top, including pinto beans. I’ve even heard that so-called Tijuana Dogs sometimes include pineapple and avocado.

In short, it’s a more-or-less a Chicago Dog, re-imagined south of the border style.

Here’s my easy approach to Mexican hot dogs. Gather up the following ingredients:

  • Hot Dog Wieners
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Bacon
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Queso Blanco (I like real Mexican cheese crumbled, but shredded cheese is fine, too.)
  • Jar of Jalapenos
  • Onions and Oil (to sautee)
  • Fresh Peppers (serrano or jalapeno or something else)
  • Mayo
  • Hot Sauce of Choice

Now get a load of how easy this is.

1. Wrap hot dog wieners in bacon. Cook (preferably on a grill) until the bacon is the way you like bacon. Careful for flare ups, since bacon is so fatty.

2. Begin grilling the fresh peppers. Sautee the onions until carmelized. After the peppers have nice grill marks, throw them in with the onions to add a sauteed touch.

3. Grill the buns slightly.

4. Crumble the queso, and toss it up with some of the jalapenos. This makes the dressing of the dogs much easier.

5. When everything is done, assemble the buns like so: mayo first, then queso/jalapeno mixture, sauteed onions, and hot sauce. Then add the wiener/bacon and fill in the extra space with the fresh salsa.

6. Now what to do with your grilled/sauteed peppers? You can either add them to the bun for an extra kick, or what I like to do is grind sea salt lightly all over them, and nibble on them throughout the meal as a side. It’s absolutely wonderful. Picked this trick up from an old taco shack in Hawaii.

Finally, eat your Mexican hot dogs with luxurious, inexpensive abandon.

Oh, I almost forgot a very important part. Drink a beer. But you should do this before, during, and after the meal preparation. Also, before, during, and after the meal consumption.

¡Arriba!