Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Put A Pickle On It

photo 3Last week I went to pick up my CSA share and was given four pounds of cucumbers.

Four pounds!

Luckily I love cukes. As a child they were the only vegetable I would eat, probably because they taste less like a vegetable and more like the Good Seasons Italian dressing (remember the one that came in a powder packet that you’d mix in its own cruet?) that I would bathe them in. But still, four pounds is no joke for a weekly share. You master canners out there are probably thinking I should have pulled out the Ball jars and started pickling, and I would of, if I had the time and energy. But at this point in the summer, I’m so exhausted from swim team and camp runs, that there’s a good chance that any attempt to sanitize a large amount of jars and produce would lead to household botulism. So I decided to wait and do the canning-project during late summer when things are lazier and the tomatoes are in, and for now, do a quick pickle instead; that way I could enjoy many delicious pickled cucumber slices for a week, plus share the bounty with friends and neighbors.

photo 2The recipe I like to use is called Lazy Cucumber and Onion Pickle from one of my favorite all-time cookbooks: Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, a guide to what to do with pretty much every herb and vegetable you will encounter at the farmer’s market or CSA this summer, with simple recipes, good tips, and clear instructions.  You can find the recipe HERE (although I HIGHLY recommend getting the book). But basically for a quick pickle there’s a simple formula:

Sliced cucumbers (I like them thin with a benriner) and sliced onion (sweet, red, or shallot), added to a solution that’s made up of sugar, salt, 1 part vinegar (rice or apple or white wine) and 1 part water. You can also add herbs and spices like mustard seed, celery seeds, dill, turmeric, or chile peppers.

photo 3In KEEPERS we included an even simpler version but with a slightly different technique: First you salt the sliced and peeled cucumbers and leave them in a colander to drain (removing the water from the cucumbers makes them soft and pliable and also allows the to absorb the vinegar solution). After about 20 minutes you squeeze out any remaining liquid (but don’t rinse them!) and then add them to a mixture of rice vinegar and sugar (so 1 English cucumber added to a combination of 2 tbs of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar).

photo 5Once you have your pickles done, you can then fill up your spare Ball/mustard/jam jars and store them in the fridge (you should let them soak for a few hours before you start to eat them so they’re nice and pickle-y). I can happily eat them straight from the jar (I especially like to have a few after a meal because I think they’re good for digestion), but they’re also pretty good on almost everything. You may ask, “why not just buy a jar of pickles and save yourself the trouble?” Well, I promise you that fresh pickles, made with from-the-farm cucumbers, are going to taste infinitely better then what you would by at the supermarket.

For starters: On sandwiches they shine, like inside of a warm pita (see above), also stuffed with hummus, feta and arugula.

photo 1This was grilled and sliced pork tenderloin (a KEEPERS recipe–the tenderloin is marinated in apple juice and then glazed with hoisin sauce) wrapped in a lettuce leaf and then stuffed with pickles, avocado, radish, and spicy-miso-mayo.

photo 1For breakfast I layered an everything bagel with cream cheese, sliced radish, the pickles, and topped with flaky salt.

photo 2For Belle’s pre-camp lunch I also put some inside of a ham and cheddar sandwich, and grilled it in a skillet with butter to make it like a melted Cubano. As you can see, the options are endless, and by the end of the week, we had consumed all four pounds of pickles (not including the ones we share with those we love).

So give it a try! And if there’s anything awesome you like to put your homemade cucumbers on, please share!

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Thursday, July 10th, 2014


photo 1Just a quick and exciting announcement: KEEPERS is featured in the latest issue of edibleJERSEY!

The edible community of publications has been such a terrific addition to the landscape of food writing and so I was thrilled when my home-state’s edition asked us to be included in an upcoming issue. My co-author and I did an interview about how we created the cookbook, as well as our weeknight meal philosophy, and the magazine includes two of our favorite summer recipes from the book: Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Raw Corn Salad with Jalapeno and Radish.

photo 2

photo 3I’m also thrilled that it’s the High Summer issue and we get to share space with the magazine’s “Ice Cream In-Depth” feature, which includes a write-up of probably my all-time favorite ice cream shop, The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ. To celebrate, I went there yesterday and had a cone with a scoop of vanilla-caramel-sea salt and a scoop of sweet Jersey basil (which is out of this world, really and truly). If you’re ever in that gorgeous ivy-covered college town, you must MUST go there and knock yourself out.

photo 4BIG thanks to everyone at edibleJERSEY, as well as the lovely writer Emily Suzuki (who impressively enough, is also a doula AND a post-partum chef…here’s a link to her site), and photographer Amy Roth for creating such a terrific piece.

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Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The New Tuna Salad Sandwich

IMG_1951SUMMER is here, and this week the kids have a double-whammy of town camp in the morning (something that the locals affectionately call “rec”, where the primary activities are knock-hockey, dodgeball and weaving a thousand lanyard key chains) and nature camp in the afternoon (where the primary activities are hiking, making tie-dye t-shirts and removing ticks). This leaves a small window of time in between sessions for lunch at home, which is a summer ritual that I actually love. It’s so much easier and more interesting to make the kids lunch when they’re around, rather than packing it for school. I pack both Belle and Conor’s lunches every single day for the entire school year, a task that I seriously start to loathe come June (by the last week or so of school, I’m basically throwing pretzels, cheese slices, and raisins in their lunchbox and calling it a day).

When it’s summer and we’re home together during the midday, there’s complete bliss at not having to rush, or hunt for missing thermoses, or clean out the remnants of a turkey sandwich that had been left in the bottom of a lunchbox overnight. Obviously everything is also fresher because it hasn’t been sitting inside of a cubbyhole for four hours before being consumed. You can also make things that you wouldn’t normally dare pack, like tuna sandwiches, or my new favorite, salmon sandwiches wrapped in nori (a sheet of roasted seaweed).

IMG_1947I use leftover grilled salmon or tuna from the night before (making a bit extra so there will be enough left for lunch) that has chilled in the fridge overnight, and then flake it in a bowl and mix it with the following: mayonnaise, lemon or lime juice, a little white or yellow miso, and freshly ground pepper. On top I like to layer some cucumbers that were quickly pickled (peeled and sliced thin, sprinkled with salt, placed in a colander to drain, squeeze out liquid, then put in bowl and cover with rice wine vinegar, add thinly sliced red onion if you’d like), and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds for some crunch or my favorite condiment, furikake! I’ll also pour on hot sauce for my own roll, like sriracha or green Tabasco. If you want to go heavier on the roughage then you could also add any kind of raw vegetable that you like, perhaps something from your CSA that’s still kicking around in the crisper like radishes, cilantro stems, or shredded carrots.

IMG_1952Once the roll fillings are placed on the nori then just do a simple sushi roll log (as seen above) and “voila!”—a summer salmon sandwich-roll that should never be jammed into a lunchbox but is perfect between camp runs.

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Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Happy 4th! Keep it Simple.



Chances are that you’re hosting a get-together or invited to a get-together this holiday weekend (or perhaps both? you party animal!). If this is the case, then you’ll want to make or bring something summery, outdoorsy, and tasty, but the thought of throwing together another potato salad makes you sleepy. You could go all food magazine on the situation and attempt a freekah-chard-za’tar concoction you read about. Or…you could make your life super easy and follow this formula:

1 Vegetable + A Flurry of Fresh Herbs + Tasty Vinaigrette = Summer Holiday Side Dish

Pictured above are two examples: The first was a bowl of fresh peas from my CSA that I barely simmered in water until they turned bright green, and then drizzled with some very good quality olive oil, generous handfuls of chopped dill and parsley, and a sprinkling of sherry vinegar (you can also just squeeze on some lemon juice). I also added pats of butter while the peas were still warm and some flaky salt. That’s it.


For the second example: I had a bunch of striped beets that were too pretty to cook (and it was also too hot to turn on the oven), so with my trusty Benriner (Japanese mandoline), I shredded them into slender matchsticks and then dressed with lots of parsley and a vinaigrette (made in ajar with 2 parts grapeseed oil, 1 part white wine vinegar or white balsamic, teaspoon of dijon, 1 finely chopped shallot, drizzle of honey, salt and pepper). And again some flaky salt on top because this is the season to use up that fancy-pants fleur de sel on all your CSA and farmer’s market vegetables–it adds a subtle crunch and brings out all of the ingredient’s natural flavor.
IMG_2265Not only do both salads work well on their own, you can toss them with soba noodles or grains and have a more substantial entree for the non meat-eater guest. And of course play with the herbs–mint, basil, chervil are all wonderful on a simple summer vegetable dish. HAPPY HOLIDAY!!

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Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Go Belgium! Go USA! Go Beer!

IMG_2279This photo of my mom (a born and raised Belgian lady) and Conor (a fanatic soccer fan and player) pretty much sums up our household today. Good luck to both teams—no matter who wins, I’ll be celebrating with a cold Stella.

And HERE is a good article from today’s NY Times that sums up the inter-country rivalry (except they got it all wrong about the waffles…no real Belgian waffle is served with whipped cream and fruit on top, on the streets of Brussels they sell them with a caramelized sugar crust and you eat them in-hand).

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