Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pickled Fiddleheads

Bo! Drunkard! It's fall and I'm already yearning for early spring and picking fiddleheads before they grow into big, beautiful ferns *sigh* at least we can make big plans for when that time comes. The first week of May was when the fiddleheads were just right for picking and pickling. I spent a couple of lunch breaks and a few hours after work that week picking bags full of the pretty little green friends as this was my first year knowing what to do with fiddleheads and I had no idea what was involved in prepping them! Turns out it's a major PIA to clean the brown skin-like stuff off of them and I spent as much time cleaning them as I did picking them (seriously, con a friend into helping with that part) but I have no problem guaranteeing that all of the effort is
totally worth it.

Lookit how stinking pretty fiddleheads are!
I spent a lot of time trying to find a simple recipe for pickling and canning my haul and surprisingly to me found a great recipe on the State of Alaska WIC website which goes something like this (with a few changes added by me):

  • Fiddleheads, Raw- about a gallon bag full
  • Garlic, Raw -8ish cloves
  • Shallots, 2 or 3 (I had some laying around and wanted to pickle them)
  • Dill Weed, about a cup fresh from my garden
  • Variety of Fresh Herbs, I used Rosemary, Basil and Thyme
  • Red Pepper 1/4 cup (I don't like spicy things)
  • Water 2 Quarts
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 6 Cups
  • Pickling Salt 1/2 Cup
Pick and clean about one gallon of fiddleheads (best with about 3 inches stem and before they curl out). Place in cold water until ready to blanche them.
Sterilize jars and lids.
Blanche fiddleheads for 5 minutes in boiling water (safety first!). Place them in a colander to drain.

Peel and cut into quarters about 8 cloves of garlic. Set aside in small bowl. Have dill weed and crushed red peppers ready with the garlic and shallots.
In large pan, pour 8 cups water, 6 cups apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup pickling salt. This mixture has to be boiling when poured over fiddleheads.
Take sterile jars out of water and sit on thick towel. Place equal amounts of garlic in each jar. Place approximately 3 stems of dill weed, your variety of fresh herbs and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper in each jar with garlic. Stuff drained fiddlestick on top of garlic, dill and peppers. I try to pack mine tight by pushing the fiddleheads down into the jars, otherwise they tend to be bulky and take up a lot of space.

Pour boiling vinegar mixture over fiddleheads leaving a small space at top of jar. Quickly cover with sterile lid and ring and finger-tighten immediately. Boil the jars with lids on for 10 minutes. Remove sealed jars and place on a thick towel or wood cutting board to cool overnight.

After jars cool, check that they have sealed properly. Label and let sit in pantry for a month or two. They are best if served chilled on delicious gouda or atop a tasty bloody mary.

Tunes: While picking I listen to my silly blonde dog run around sniffing marmot poop and while canning I think I was just listening to some NPR.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Cup cakes, cup pies and now cup tarts...Muffin tins are taking over the world. 

Roasted Tomato, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts (I invented this shit)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 c sliced mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Phyllo dough- thawed
Butter- melted
Goat Brie- cut into 1 in pieces
Goat Cheese- grated

- Preheat oven to 425.
- Mix the tomatoes, mushrooms. garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper into a oven proof dish. Roast for 30 mins, until the tomatoes are slightly shriveled, but have retained their shape.
- Prep the phyllo cups.
    - Take 1 sheet of phyllo (please see Hannah's Tips for Working with Phyllo), fold hamburger style 2      times, so you end up with a rectangle of 4 sheets. Cut the sheets on the folds, so the 4 are seperate.
    - brush Butter on the square and layer in the muffin tin.
    - Repeat this so that each muffin tin has between 4 and 6 layers of phyllo, creating a cup.
Phyllo prep stations

- Place 1 piece of the brie in the bottom of each tart, spoon some of the tomato mix over, then sprinkle with the grated cheese.

- Bake for 20 mins at 350, until the cheese is melted and the phyllo is golden brown.
- VERY IMPORTANT- Let the cup-tarts rest in the muffin tins for at least 10 minutes. They need to cool quite a bit before you can pull them out and.....
- Stuff your face.


Music stuff:
Black Prarie's Feast of the Hunter's Moon from April 2010.
I'm sure you've all deduced how I feel about The Decemberists and Bluegrass (the answer is pretty f-ing positive), so adding those two together is the best things I've heard in a long time.
Plus, when I play the "this is the soundtrack to the film about my life" game with these tracks, I'm in a Western.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's (still) Greek to me.

I've been wanting to try my hand at stuffed grape leaves for a while. It turned out to be pretty epic. 
Reason 1-The grape leaves had to come from Seattle. One cannot find them anywhere in Juneau. I looked/called everyone and was about to buy already stuffed grape leaves, unroll them and restuff them, but my parents were going down to Seattle and spared me this headache. 
Reason 2- I was pretty hungover when this happened, so grape leaves will always taste like sour tequila burps. I'm also not a huge fan of the oily/briny taste. 
Reason 3- I'm sure they would have cooked more evenly if my family wasn't opening various pot lids and letting heat escape throughout the ENTIRE process. The hangover didn't help this rage either. 

Grape Leaves with Bulgar and Mint (a Michael Symon (Iron Chef!) recipe)

1 1/2 c whole grain bulgar ( Like Bob's Red Mill)
2 1/2 c green onions, chopped
2 c plum tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c fresh dill, chopped
3/4 c fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
40 brined grape leaves, drained (2 7-8 oz jars)
1/4 c olive oil

- Mix the bulgar, green onions, tomatoes, dill, mint, 1/2 c olive oil, lemon juice and cumin in a bowl. Let soak for at least 30 mins,
- Line the bottom of a large pot with 2 layers of grape leaves, covering the bottom completely.
- Open a grape leaf, lay flat with the veined side down (if it's broken or too small you can patch with another one), place 1 Tbsp of the filling in the middle of the leaf.
- Fold stem end over the filling, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up tightly. Place on a flat surface.
- Repeat until the filling is gone.

Step 1

Step 2- Burrito it. 
Step 3- Nom. 

- place the filled grape leaves on the bottom of the grape leaf lined pot, snuggle and layer them together. Pour enough water (about 6 cups) to cover them, also add 1/4 c lemon juice and 1/4 c olive oil.
- place a tart pan (I jerry-rigged a aluminum one to fit) over the leaves and weigh down, using a heavier pie pan, pie weights, marbles etc..
- Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and reduce heat to very low. Cook until the bulgar is soft, about 45 mins.
- Remove from heat and let cool in liquid until room temp. Carefully remove, place invitingly on a platter, like so. 

Greek Salad
Red onion
Kalamata olives

Dressing- olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, pepper.

Currently rocking:
Owen Pallet's Heartland.
It shouldn't be a surprise, but I will do terrible terrible things for a man with a violin and a loop pedal.

In other music land news, guess who has 2 thumbs, speaks limited French and is going to see the Tuneyards in concert next week?

                                                                   THIS MOI

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rhubarb Tarts

Remember how I admitted that I can't grow anything?
I lied.
There is one plant that does not die under my loving, ever-present care and that is rhubarb.

While this miracle may be because I don't actually touch the plants and they just do their own thing, I still regard it as a miracle and thank whatever power at large that inspired this feat.

Right before I chop the miracle plants down to reap their benefits.

Rhubarb Tart (From Bon Appetit)
1/4 c cranberry juice cocktail
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp seedless raspberry jam
40 1/4 inch slices of fresh rhubarb
12 sheets Phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
Finely grated orange peel
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

- Stir the cranberry juice, 1 tbsp sugar and jam in a heavy large skillet, heat until the sugar and jam has dissolved. Remove from heat
- Arrange the rhubarb in a single layer in the skillet, cook over medium low heat, 1 min per side of rhubarb. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven to 400,
- Put 3 sheets of phyllo (see Hannah's Tips for Phyllo below), on the work surface, brush butter and sprinkle sugar over the sheet. Fold in half and then again, hamburger style both times, to create a rectangle. Cut off the gross edges and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other phyllo sheets to create 4 tarts.
- Overlap the rhubarb slices (10 per tart) on the phyllo, leaving a crust.
- Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of jam to the syrup in the skillet, heat until the jam is dissolved and brush over the tarts.
- Bake the tarts for 15-18 mins, until the crust is brown. The syrup will burn a little if it gets on the baking sheet. Let cool on a rack before serving.

Working with Phyllo (tested and retested by Hannah)- It is a headache.
1. Make sure it is thawed- a couple of days in the fridge and 2 hours at room temp before you work with it.
2. Dampen a kitchen towel, lay it on the work surface, unroll the phyllo (all of the sheets, even if you're only using a couple), lay it on the towel (make sure that the plastic that it comes in touches the towel.
3. Put plastic wrap over the exposed phyllo, cover with a damp towel.
4. Make sure that the phyllo's exposure is limited, it dries out really quickly.
5. When you get pissed at it, remember that a. it's a dough and really not out to ruin your life, and b. no one really cares what the final product looks like, as long as the blood, sweat and tears that went into it isn't visible.
The phyllo in it's damp towel snuggle

Sage Francis- Personal Journals.
And you all thought you had my music tastes pegged.