Monday, June 30, 2008

Pickled Mushrooms

Heaven knows I like my pickles. I think its a genetic thing. Vinegar and spices run through my Germanic veins and my Pennsylvania Deutsch ancestry practically demands that I crave some sours along with my sweets. In fact, this recipe is the result of recent exposure to some Pennsylvanian food. Pickled mushrooms were served at my cousin's wedding in Reading, PA over memorial day. While they are actually more Italian then German, the Germans know good food when they see it, so they were quick to adopt these Mediterranean treats.

I returned to DC determined to make my own. After searching the Internet and finding multiple recipes, I combined what I liked best about several of them and came up with the version you see below. But before I could try it I had to get my mushrooms. On my lunch break I headed down to Whole Foods one day and positioning myself in front of the crimini bin, began to assiduously pick my way through, plucking out the smallest mushrooms I could find. Soon a man sidled up next to me and began doing the same thing, except he grabbed the largest specimens in the box. A peaceful coexistence reigned as each person's trash became the others treasure. I would like to end this paragraph with a great punch line, maybe with the man turning to me with some witty remark, but I'm afraid we each went our way without any sitcom style exchanges. I don't think the mushrooms suffered from the lack of dialogue, but it would have made for a better blog post, no? Either way, if you like pickles and mushrooms, you definitely want to try out this recipe. And if you can't think of what you would do with them, scroll to the bottom of this post for some ideas.

Pickled Mushrooms

Makes about 5 cups, 617 calories for the whole recipe or about 62 calories per half cup serving.

1 lb Crimini or white button mushrooms (use the smallest ones you can find)
2 medium onions, sliced and separated into rings
About 3 ounces of red bell pepper cut into strips (about 1 small pepper, use more or less, to taste)
1-1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cup water
2-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp whole allspice berries (you may omit this if you can't find them)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp hot pepper flakes or to taste
Dash of ground cloves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds


1. You will need a medium saucepan and a big pot, 3 pint, 6 half pint or 2 quart jars with lids (try using your old, clean pasta sauce or peanut butter jars for this). Make sure the rubber seal on the inside of the lids is intact. Fill the big pot with about 3 inches of water and place the lids face up in the water, and the jars mouth down on top of them. They don't have to line up, they just need to be under the water. Place the pot over high heat while you get started with the mushrooms.

2. Thoroughly clean your mushroom of choice, and prep your other vegetables. Feel free to use different spices than the ones that I list here, you will still get a good result, just different flavours.

3. Combine the spices, salt, sugar, water, vinegar, onion rings and pepper in the medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add the mushrooms and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir so that the mushrooms all get a bath in the spicy broth. Take the saucepan off the heat.

4. By now the big pot with your jars should be boiling. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.

5. Using oven mitts and a pair of tongs, pull a jar out of the big pot, set it right side up on the counter and using a ladle or a cup measure, dip the hot pickling mixture out of the saucepan and fill your jar, leaving about half an inch of air at the very top. Use tongs to fish a lid out of the big pot and your oven mitts to tighten it down on your jar of pickles. Set aside and repeat until you are out of mushrooms.

6. You are done! This whole recipe can be put together in about an hour, including veggie prep time. Unfortunately you have to wait a while before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Set those alluring jars aside to cool completely and then put them in your cupboard for at least a week before opening. If you try them sooner, the mushrooms wont have absorbed the full flavour from the pickling juice. Once the jar has been opened, the seal will be broken, so then you will want to keep it in the fridge.

Some ideas for your pickled mushrooms:

1. Blend or mince finely and mix with mayo or mustard and use as a spread in your favorite sandwich.

2. Top a salad with a couple of these for a delicious accompaniment.

3. Use the mushrooms (and onion and pepper) as a topping on your next pizza.

4. Toss with some short pasta and a bit of mayo for a great pasta salad.

5. My favorite way: sneak into the kitchen just before bed and eat them out of the jar with a fork.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Preliminary Recipe Index


  • Banana Maple Smoothie with Kale

  • Cardamom Addict's Masala Chai

  • Tastes Like Home's Peanut Punch

  • Salads

  • Butterhead Lettuce and Orange Salad with Pepitas and Dried Cranberries

  • Carrot, Orange and Honey Salad

  • Couscous, Fennel and Cannolini Bean Salad

  • Curried Chickpea and Avocado Salad

  • Dandelion Green Salad

  • Blood Orange, Kumquat and Kiwi Salad

  • Macerated Oranges with Cinnamon and Rum

  • Apple Spinach Salad

  • Autumn Slaw with Dijon Vinaigrette

  • Cherry Tomatoes with Micro-basil and Goat Cheese

  • Wheat Berry Salad with Feta and Olives

  • Salmon Salad with Roasted Summer Vegetables

  • Watercress Salad with Mango and Lime

  • Ingredients and Produce

  • Breadfruit and Winged Beans

  • Caramolas, Pineapples and Apple Bananas

  • Green and Black's Chocolate

  • Marie Sharp's Habanero Hot Sauce

  • Pumpkin

  • Vegetables

  • Lambs Quarters

  • Dandelion Greens with Bacon

  • Broccoli with Kumquats and Red Pepper Flakes

  • Leeks with Dijon Mustard

  • Late Summer Sweet Potato and Green Bean Stirfry

  • Roasted Turnips with Olive Oil

  • Zucchini Fritters Five Ways

  • Grilled Zucchini Wraps with Pineapple and Smoked Paprika

  • Stuffed Green Papaya

  • Legumes of all types

  • Stewed Red Kidney Beans, Belizean Style

  • Ginger Tofu and Chickpeas

  • Pasta, Rice and other Grains

  • Clams and Calamari with Lemon, Capers and Fettuccine

  • Spring Vegetable Fusilli with Feta Cheese

  • Pseudo-Saffron Rice

  • Seafood

  • Clams and Calamari with Lemon and Capers

  • Easy Catfish Gumbo

  • Red Snapper Ceviche, Yucatec Style

  • Snapper grilled in Allspice Leaves

  • Amotik: A Goan Fish Curry

  • Jose's Maple Almond Encrusted Salmon

  • Salmon Salad with Roasted Vegetables

  • Condiments, Chutneys, Jams, Sauces and Dressings

  • Apple Ginger Chutney

  • Caramelized Sweet Corn Salsa

  • Homemade Belizean Pepper Sauce

  • Wild Crab Apple Butter

  • Home Made Yogurt

  • Papaya Pickles

  • Pickled Mushrooms

  • Meats

  • Cuban Picadillo

  • Curried Bison

  • Stove-top Pan Barbecued Chicken

  • Goat and Garlic stuffed Apples

  • Desserts

  • Blueberry Malt Non-fat Frozen Yogurt

  • Gingery Vanilla-Peach Shortcake

  • Grandma's Lemon Sponge Pie

  • Grandma's Bread Pudding

  • Guava Pudding

  • Desert Candy's Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

  • Tahini Honey Chews

  • No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls

  • No-Egg Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream

  • Low fat Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

  • World's Easiest Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

  • Tropical Paradise Ice Cream

  • Yeast Breads

  • A Year in Bread's Rosemary Raisin Loaf

  • A Year in Bread's Grape Foccaccia

  • Belizean Creole Bread

  • My Mom's All Purpose Bread

  • Light Honey Rye Bread

  • Quick Breads and Muffins

  • Brown Bread with Raisins and Cardamom

  • Johnny Cakes

  • 5 Spice Muffins with Ginger, Dates and Bananas

  • No-Egg Carrot Raisin Muffins

  • Cranberry Date and Coconut "Sailor" Muffins

  • Pumpkin Molasses Muffins

  • Wild Persimmon Bread with Walnuts

  • Breakfast and Brunch

  • Breakfast Polenta with Cranberries and Maple Syrup

  • Coconut Date Oats with Banana

  • Whole Wheat Orange Blueberry Hotcakes

  • Belizean Fry Jack

  • Soups

  • Breadfruit Gumbo

  • Catfish Gumbo

  • Curried Pumpkin with Lime and Plantain

  • Fat Free Sweet Potato Corn Chowder

  • Thai-style Green Papaya and Lemon Grass Soup

  • Chickpea Andouille Soup with Greens
  • Cherries and Chow Chow

    These are from my weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania. My family found the cherries at a local farmers market. Sweet Ranier cherries, too delicious to do anything but eat them raw. The whole quart disappeared in about 20 minutes. I spotted some sour cherries at my Dupont Circle market the weekend before. Are you seeing any cherries in your neck of the woods?

    I also picked up a jar of chow chow while I was in PA, a sweet pickle mix of peppers, beans, corn, baby onions and other vegetables that you can find all over that part of the USA. I can't wait to dig into it!

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Curried Chickpea and Avocado Salad

    I made hummus the other day for a pool party and even though I blended up a quart of the stuff, there were still tons of chickpeas left over from the 5 pound can that I had lugged home from a nearby Syrian fast food joint.

    So last night in class when things began to drag a bit I started dreaming up something to do with all those garbanzos. Something fresh, something that would also use up a few of the avocados that were slowly over-ripening on my counter. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case it was necessary for me to avoid losing 3 dollars of expensive tropical produce just because I was tired of eating guacamole every day.

    This is what I came up with. It is tasty, fresh with bright, sharp flavours that wake you up and make you pay attention. I can think of a lot of variations on this salad, so feel free to add some different spices or new ingredients. I think if you had the time that caramelizing the onions and warming up the chickpeas would create a whole new spin on this combination.

    Curried Chickpea and Avocado Salad
    Serves one as a meal, about 382 calories

    1 cup chickpeas (about 8.4 ounces)
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
    1/4 cup onion, minced
    1/2 medium avocado, chopped (about 2 ounces)
    salt and fresh ground black pepper
    1/4-1/2 tsp good curry powder
    1/4 tsp cumin
    1/4-1/2 tsp Chipotle powder (or to taste)
    Juice of one lime


    1. If the chickpeas are canned, thoroughly wash them and rinse.
    2. Toss the chickpeas, minced onion, cilantro and spices.
    3. Top with the cubed avocado and squeeze the lime over all. Let sit for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to meld.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    The Tackle Box: A Restaurant Review

    I believe I've mentioned before how much I love DC chef Barton Seaver's upscale sustainable seafood restaurant Hook. Despite my great love, however, I have only been there twice. Why? Well, when I say upscale I mean expensive and I don't quite have the budget to match. So you can only imagine how excited I was to hear that Seaver's new project, what he describes as "a New England lobster shack in the heart of DC", had opened. Named Tackle Box, this little picnic bench and paper napkin restaurant is located right next door to its more pretentious sibling on M. Street in Georgetown, one of DC's most expensive neighborhoods.

    Unlike Hook, however, I can actually afford to eat at this place more than once a year. In fact, for 13 dollars I can get a main course of sustainable, fresh seafood, two sides and a house-made sauce to dip it all in. Walking in the door on a sweltering day this past weekend, the first thing that caught my eye was the big blackboard on the far right wall, listing appetizers (from 6 to 12 dollars depending on what you get), the 13 dollar "Maine Meal" offers, sides, extras and sauces. I like how the "maine meal" offerings are divided by style of preparation: you can order seafood that is either "crispy" (deep fried) or "wood-grilled". Between the appetizers and the "maine" meal, scallops, shrimp, clams, oysters, bluefish, catfish, tilapia, calamari and rainbow trout are all represented. The clean concrete floors and walls give the place a stripped down feel that is only increased when one goes to the counter to order and pay. This is definitely not Hook, with its luxurious chairs and well-dressed waiters. That's not a bad thing though. Sitting at a picnic bench sucking down some water from the pitchers sitting on a side table, I enjoy the relaxed ambiance and the fact that the air conditioning isn't blasting at a frigid 60 degrees like so many other restaurants in the summer. For once I don't have to pull out a sweater.

    And I enjoy the food. The meal comes out quickly, my number called only a few minutes after I am seated, but at the first bite it is clear that this is no fast food joint, despite the tray and disposable utensils (which according to Metrocurean are made of biodegradable materials, and certainly are more sturdy than plastic-ware). My fried oysters are fantastic. Not greasy at all, with a bit of spiciness to the crisp breading, plump and juicy and with a clean oyster flavour. My boyfriend got the burger, which seemed like a cop-out until I had a bite. Top quality meat went into that meat patty, and the results were something that you could never find at McDonalds. His New England clam chowder was equally flavourful if not as thick as the type at Legal Seafoods.

    As for the sides, my mizuna greens salad with pesto dressing was tasty, but the wood-grilled asparagus were outstanding. A slight smokey flavour permeated them and dipped into the garlic-lemon aioli (the same sauce that you can find next door at Hook), they were a meal in themselves. Because my boyfriend didn't want a sauce to go with his burger, I got two to try out my oysters with: the aioli and a yummy tarter sauce. Both were lovely although my food was so good that frankly they were just icing on the cake.

    While researching the Tackle Box before my first trip I found a number of comments on Chowhound complaining about the size of the servings. I know that serving size is a relative thing, but I can say without a doubt that I was very full when I walked out the door. One dozen deep fried oysters, to my mind, is a pretty large amount of seafood especially when it comes with a heaping pile of mizuna and at least 4 fat spears of asparagus.

    Would I go back to Tackle Box? Hell yes, and indeed I plan on it. Its great to know that there is a seafood place just a walk away where I can eat sustainably without breaking the bank. Next time I'm going to try out the house-made lemonade, and maybe see if I can plow through a half-pound of sustainably sourced peel-and-eat shrimp.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Tried and Tasted Round-Up!

    Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen was kind enough to remind me that the round-up of recipes for the first Tried and Tasted event, featuring Cynthia's blog Tastes like Home, has been posted this past weekend. I was impressed to see how many entries there were-45, by 29 different people! Another thing that caught my eye was the number-one most popular recipe: flaked roti. I am going to have to make me some of those but soon! Of course the rich and creamy peanut punch was number two, and it seems that Jai and Bee over at Jugalbandi agree with me that the alcohol is an important, if not essential, ingredient in this tasty treat! Other entries ranged from egg curries to puris to coconut ice cream and scotch bonnet hot sauce. Check them all out at Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen, and then get ready for the next Tried and Tasted event, featuring the blog One Hot Stove by Nupur. So lets head out of the Caribbean and set those taste buds for Indian food!

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    I Love Bread

    Did I mention I love bread? If you have been reading this blog for a while you are probably well acquainted with that fact...but I figured I should bring it up again just in case it slipped your mind.

    A big ol' carb lover, that's me. At least I like it multi-grain. If I can substitute whole wheat or white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour for that lily-white all purpose stuff, I do. Most of the time it turns out pretty darn good, although sometimes you just can't substitute for the bread flour.

    This is an excellent loaf of sourdough that I made with a starter that had been neglected in my fridge for about 2 months. The morning before I started my baking I stirred two cups of flour and the equivalent weight of water into about three cups of my extremely sour and sad looking starter and let it sit out for the day. When I got home from class that night it was all excited to see me, peeking over the top of the container and bubbling happily. I was pleased to see that it hadn't held a grudge against me despite not being fed for almost 8 weeks. So I scooped out three cupfuls, added 1 cup white bread flour and 2 cups wheat flour and stirred and then squished it into a rough ball and threw it into the fridge before bed.

    That morning I got up to find that the dough had risen before me despite the cold refrigerator (how I love those culinary puns...or did I mean buns? I'd better quit while I'm abread, er ahem..I mean, ahead...). I tilted it out and kneaded it into a supple round that then got tossed back into the bowl. There was flour in the bottom which I didn't bother to pour out, hence the lovely floured top on the loaf. But we can all pretend that I did that on purpose. You know, for decorative effect.

    So my bread got to sit all alone again, until I got home from work. It had doubled in size in the fridge, so I poured about a teaspoon of olive oil into the bottom of a 9" round cake pan and carefully flipped the dough ball into it. Talk about easy shaping. The floury bottom became the top and I left it to warm up and finish rising while the oven heated. It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten the salt. Basic bread= flour+water+leavening+salt. Except that mine was, at that point, definitely a no-sodium treat. While I don't use a ton of salt in my cooking, it does bring out flavour and this bread looked so pretty that I was depressed at the thought of it tasting flat (sour, yet flat). Then I had a great, save the moment idea. I patted a couple teaspoons of big grained sea salt onto the top and sides of my rotund loaf, careful not to upset it. If one disturbs a loaf while it is doing its pre-oven meditation it might fall, and I didn't want to turn out a sourdough brick like last time!

    Luckily for me this one came out great. It baked in about 30 minutes at 450 degrees, and when I took it out it smelled fantastic. I squeezed it and it crackled merrily at me, always a good sign. It has kept fine wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag on my counter, although the salt tends to attract water and make the top a bit more moist than I would like, which frankly is the only downside. Nothing that toasting can't fix! Most important of all, it tasted delicious with a surprisingly subtle sourness and the occasional salty crunch on the crust. Toasted, with some homemade fresh goat cheese, it was the best breakfast ever. So, do you love bread too?

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    A Fundraiser to help Figs with Bri Beat Cancer

    It was very recently that I began reading Briana's blog, Figs with Bri. So recently, in fact, that I haven't even added it to my blog-roll yet (that changes today). So I learned more about the site and the woman behind it from reading about this fundraiser than anything else. Check out Bri's website and make a donation below, or participate in the raffle and the photography contest.

    This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri. Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

    She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

    The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

    CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri

    Yellow is the colour of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

    The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008.

    The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise. There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

    Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account. This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE. You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicising this campaign.

    No one should have to worry about bills while fighting cancer. Unfortunately that is the reality that many people face every year. Lets help Bri so she can put her energy into beating cancer and exploring all the options available. Go Bri!

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Rhubarb and Strawberries...

    This past Sunday I went to see an outdoors performance of Hamlet at the Carter Baron theater in N.W. Washington DC. The Shakespeare Theater Company does these free performances after their for-profit runs, and on balmy summer evenings they are the perfect low-budget outing. I thank my friend M. for introducing me to the series last year, when we saw a fantastic and wacky Indian -1960s-Beatles style interpretation of Prince of Verona. (It was trippy dude!)

    Because the shows are free, it is best to arrive early so you can get good seats, and, if you are driving, a parking spot in the lot. Thousands of people turn out for each show, and this was the last performance of Hamlet and was sure to be crowded. So we decided to get there early and have a picnic dinner on the grass near the parking area before venturing through the green and gold evening woods to the amphitheater.

    Everyone was supposed to bring something to eat for themselves and a little extra to share. Coincidentally I had been reading Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Rhubarb-Strawberry pie last week, after a Memorial day weekend potluck at which I ate a delicious rhubarb pie. Then Sunday morning at the Dupont Farmers Market I found the first strawberries of the season, scenting the air and bursting out of bright blue baskets, as well as green batons of rhubarb. It was a sign. I bought lots of both and headed home, with a plan already forming in my head. I had a paper to write, but after a couple pages of notes, the pie took over and it was all pastry from there. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe with only two alterations: I added the grated zest of one orange to the filling instead of vanilla and I used whole wheat pastry flour for the crust.

    I am not a pie expert. They definitely fall into the high fat category of desserts and so I rarely make them. But despite my ineptitude, the crust came out beautifully. I followed Smitten Kitchen's handy tutorial on how to make a lattice top, and it turned out great. When I finally unveiled the pie and set it down on our picnic blanket, it was the star of the show. Smitten Kitchen was right: bringing a home made dessert always makes one a welcome guest. Especially when it is this summery delicious pie, in a flaky crust. Thanks Smitten Kitchen! This pie is definitely getting a thumbs up from me!

    Try out the recipe here: Smitten Kitchen's Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie. And in case you were wondering, if you cut this pie into 12 pieces, each piece is 366 calories. So no, its not a low-cal dessert. But it is delicious. If you wanted you could probably cut the sugar down to 3/4 of a cup and it would still be great.

    Oh-and Hamlet was pretty good too.