Category: peppers

Ch-ch-ch-chili oil.

Okay, guys. This is another one of those “not really a recipe” recipes. Meaning it’s more like a how-to, not so much a full on recipe, just like that tarragon vinegar I made.

Homemade chili oil how-to.

Yep. Chili oil. An incredibly versatile condiment used for both cooking & as a “garnish” if you will.

Chili oil (also called hot chili oil or hot oil) is a condiment made from vegetable oil that has been infused with chili peppers. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, East and Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, it is used as an ingredient in cooked dishes as well as a condiment. It is sometimes used as a dip for meat and dim sum. It is also employed in the Korean Chinese noodle soup dish jjamppong.

Chili oil is typically red in color. It is made from vegetable oil, often soybean oil or sesame oil, although olive oil or other oils may be used. Other spices may be included such as Sichuan peppergarlic, or paprika. The spices are soaked in oil. Commercial preparations may include other kinds of oil, water, dried garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. Recipes targeted to Western cooks also suggest other popular oils such as rapeseedgrapeseed or peanut, and any dried or fresh chili peppers. The solids typically settle to the bottom of the container in which it is stored. When using chili oil, the cook or diner may choose how much of the solids to use; sometimes only the oil is used, without any solids.

Chili oil is commercially available in glass jars, although it may also be made from scratch at home.[1] It is usually available by request at Chinese restaurants.

-Wikipedia

You can use any dried pepper you like, from Habanero (WHOA!) to chipotle to Ancho to Thai chili pepper (WHOA again!). Depending on the pepper you use, your flavor will differ or range from spicy to mild & smoky to hot & fiery. And of course, that depends on your taste. But choose wisely- if you’re not a fan of hot stuff, don’t use a super hot pepper. The internet is a great resource for Scoville scale measurements & also to find out what peppers taste like what.

Ever since my debacle last year with searching for chipotles, I’ve since learned to never be without dried chilies. When I find them, I buy them. I haven’t in a while because it just so happens I have a full stash. But I have noticed that this year, dried peppers are much more common, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding any. If you grow your own peppers, you can dehydrate them yourself to use in flavoring oil or other recipes. I keep my stash in a quart jar, hidden in a cool, dark, dry place so they stay dry.

Dried chilies for homemade chili oil.

The oil you use will also depend on you. What will you be using the oil for? Olive oil is good if you’re using it as a garnish. Vegetable oil, corn oil or peanut oil are best if you plan on cooking with it. Sesame oil is not suitable for high heat, so it’s best used if you’re planning on sprinkling the oil on top of already cooked food (stir fry, maybe? Or fried rice?). Coconut oil can be used over relatively high heat, and has little flavor, so it might be a decent choice as well. Whole Foods Market has a good rundown of oils on their website, you might wanna take a peek.

All I did to make this oil was:

  1. First, I found a bottle to use. I bought this little bottle at Michael’s for like $1.20, but you can find ones like it just about anywhere, or you can use a jar.
  2. Then I heated a 1/4 cup of oil over low heat. I used corn oil myself. Once it was hot but (not scaldingly so), I added a whole dried chili & 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes, and then I let the chile get hot. I did NOT let it cook! I just heated it enough to release the oils & flavor.
  3. I removed it from heat & let it cool to room temperature. Then, using tongs, I put the whole chili in the bottle. I poured the chili oil over it, then poured more fresh oil in to fill the bottle, and then I let it sit in a cool, dark place for one week before using. The longer it sits, the hotter/more flavorful it gets.

Obviously, you can add more chilies if you’re using a larger container. And you’d use more oil, as well. Experimentation is the name of the game!

How to make an easy chili oil.

Bell pepper salad & warm(er) weather!

The weather here is finally getting warmer. FINALLY. Last year at this time, it was already warm. As a matter of fact, my herbs began growing in March of last year when we had a streak of 70° degree weather. I think it even hit 80° a few times. And by mid-April, my chives were huge. So huge, in fact, I was using chives on every dish… and I had chive blossoms everywhere: I was making egg salad with them & chive blossom vinegar with them, and I had jars of them on my counters like they were flowers until late June. This year? They’re tiny little green shoots still, no sign of blooms. So I’ve been waiting patiently for things to get a bit warmer, or at least for the snow & sleet to finally stop… and the fact that it’s been in the 50′s lately (except for a few days) and relatively nice out, save for some rain & very cold nights, makes me really happy. And tomorrow it’s going to be around 66°!

Hey, it’s the little things. Like the weather getting warmer, or the flavor of a bright red pepper that means summer is coming.

(This photo is from last summer)

And at least in 50°-60° weather you can start to garden, or go for long walks and get some fresh air. And- even though it might be too cold to eat outdoors- you can maybe cook outdoors! Which is where today’s recipe comes in. It’s a fresh & easy side dish (or burger topping, or salad topping, or hell- even a hot dog topping) that takes no time at all to make. It’s great on sandwiches or with sandwiches.

When choosing your peppers, choose ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid ones with wrinkles, cracks or blemishes; pick ones with taut, firm skin.

TANGY FOUR-COLOR BELL PEPPER SALAD

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Directions:

  1. Place peppers and tomatoes in a large glass jar with lid, or mix them together in a large mixing bowl. Shake or stir to combine; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, whisking well. If using a jar to mix, pour mixture over peppers, then close lid and shake well to coat. If using a bowl, scoop the pepper mix into the jar(s) and then pour the liquid over them, equally if using more than one jar. Add more vinegar & oil in equal parts if desired (to fill jars with more liquid, if needed). The liquid should be at least halfway up the jar.
  3. Serve slaw from jar if desired, immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator. Salad is best when made a day before serving, so all the flavors can meld together.


The dressing itself is awesome, and once the peppers are gone I recommend keeping it to use as a salad dressing. The peppers impart their flavor into it after sitting in it for a while, so it makes a great peppery Italian-like salad dressing.

I served it a little over 24 hours after making it alongside & on top of big ol’ fresh green salads that included romaine, iceberg, red cabbage, carrots and baby arugula.

But like I said- it’s excellent with just about anything. Here are some other serving ideas:

  • Just like that open-face tomato & feta sandwich I made last year with my garden fixin’s, this is a great dish to make on a really hot day. And, also like that sandwich, it’d be fantastic eaten just as it is as a light summer picnic meal, maybe with a little feta crumbled on top.
  • This would be really good with the Southern pickled shrimp I posted last year, too, maybe on a bed of greens. (Those pickled shrimp aren’t what you think, by the way. They’re like ceviche de camarones- just shrimp in an herby seasoned olive oil/lemon juice mixture. No vinegar. Don’t be afraid!)
  • Speaking of greens, like I said above, it’s awesome on top of a regular ol’ lettuce salad, too. The peppers are perfect additions to any salad, and the vinagrette that’s already in the jar is an amazing salad dressing in and of itself.
  • Oh, wait- here’s another GENIUS idea: mix it with some cold pasta & fresh grated parmesan as a pasta salad- with or without a 1/4 cup of mayo.
  • As a hamburger topping. The tang of the vinegary peppers with a thick, juicy burger is perfect!
  • Alternatively, this would be delicious as the filling of a wrap. Maybe with some grilled chicken, or shrimp, or even with avocado, sliced portobello mushrooms or black beans if you’re a vegetarian.

Mmm. Oh man- now I’m getting hungry.

And it takes literally, like, five minutes to pull together. Store it in pint jars in the fridge for a quick fix- just pull one out an hour or so before you want to use it to let the oil come back to it’s normal consistency and you’re good to go. I actually made one quart jar (above) and a pint jar… I mean, if you really want to, make 6 half-pint jars. It doesn’t matter. Whatever.

For an even more colorful salad, you can use small different colored heirloom tomatoes such as Black Cherry, Blondkopfchen, Snow White, Hartman’s Yellow Gooseberry or Sun Gold. And if you can find a purple Bell pepper, or a chocolate Bell pepper, then add them too! Last but not least: you can also add a head of cabbage, thinly sliced, to this. Then it would become a kind of “slaw” I suppose… but boy would that give it some heft. Not to mention make a massive portion! You can also add a chopped red onion to it, or celery. Experiment! Try adding cilantro instead of basil & oregano for a different flavor. Use rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar & sesame oil instead of olive oil for an Asian spin. Shake things up.

Literally. I mean, shake the jar to mix it up.

Get your extinguishers ready.

Because today… we’re talkin’ about Molotov cocktail pickles. Yeah.

(I made these a while back [in August] and I’m just getting around to posting them now. I know, I’m horrible.)

;

If that name doesn’t scare you, then keep reading. If it does then look no further than the above picture, and back away from the computer slowly. When you regain your composure, go look at some cupcakes.

;

Okay now that the ‘fraidy cats are gone, let’s get down to business.

Late August around my house is pickle time. The last of the pretty local cucumbers are rolling in and there are tons of ideas floating around my brain for new kinds of pickles. I’m not really the type to make 600 jars of regular ol’ dill pickles, you see. But there are cucumbers that need pickling. Before September is in full swing is when I make pickles after pickles after pickles… and they never seem to be enough. A few pints here, a quart here & a quart there may seem like a lot to you- but you don’t understand. I have a family of pickle-monsters here. No matter how much I make, there’s always requests for more. Because people around here are crazy for pickles.

But maybe you’re crazy for pickles too. Or maybe, just maybe, you read my Canning for Dummies post and decided you wanna start canning up a storm. And… maybe there’s a small chance you like hot peppers, or all things hot & spicy. If any one of those statements (or all three!) are valid for you, then keep on reading.

;

I had the idea for these pickles a while back. Truth be told, I was looking for ideas on whiskey pickles (back when I was only in the planning stages of these) and I came up empty, which is why I had to make up my own recipe. What I did find, however, was a recipe floating around for vodka pickles. I bookmarked it more out of curiosity than anything else, and then forgot about it. I made the Bourbon pickles, they were a huge success, and that was that. Then I made those Hop Pickles (which Jay announced as “the best pickles [you] ever made!”), and those went fast. And then… one evening when me & Jay were having one of our many pickle conversations (…what?? Yeah, we really do that), he brought up the idea of Molotov cocktail pickles in a really off-the-cuff way. Immediately I thought of using the vodka in pickles that were made with hot peppers. Not crazy hot like Habanero’s or Jamaican hot peppers, but something like a Jalapeño or Serrano, or both. What I ended up doing was using two jalapeños; one red, one green, and one Cajun Belle pepper that I grew in my garden. That’s a lot of pepper in just two jars of pickles!

The Cajun Belle’s I ended up with this year were beyond beautiful.

;

Such gorgeous color! I couldn’t help but take some glamour shots of it. It’s more like a Bell pepper in that it has a very mild heat & a fresh smell, not a spicy hot smell like other peppers with heat. But it packs a punch.

The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, they are frequently used by non-professionally equipped fighters and others who cannot afford, manufacture, or obtain hand grenades. They are primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than instantly destroy them. The name “Molotov cocktail” was coined[1] by the Finns during the Winter War. The name is an insulting reference (not a tribute) to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was responsible for the partition of Finland.[2]

A Molotov cocktail is a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as gasoline or a napalm-like mixture, with some motor oil added, and usually a source of ignition such as a burning cloth wick held in place by the bottle’s stopper. The wick is usually soaked in alcohol or kerosene, rather than gasoline.

In action, the wick is lit and the bottle hurled at a target such as a vehicle or fortification. When the bottle smashes on impact, the ensuing cloud of petrol droplets and vapour ignites, causing an immediate fireball followed by a raging fire as the remainder of the fuel is consumed. Another method is to place a reactive substance in with the gasoline, and treat the label or wrapper paper with another chemical; when the bottle ruptures, the two chemicals mix and ignite; this is safer to handle if done properly, and does not betray the thrower with a visible flame prior to the throw.

Other flammable liquids such as diesel fuel, methanol, turpentine and E85 have been used in place of or with gasoline. Thickening agents such as Styrofoam, baking soda, tar, strips of tyre tubing, sugar, blood, XPS foam, egg whites, motor oil, rubber cement, and dish soap have been added to help the burning liquid adhere to the target and create clouds of thick, choking smoke.[3]

Uh. Yeah. My pickles definitely don’t include blood, motor oil or Polystyrene. What they do, have, though… are hot peppers and vodka. They’re hot & boozy.

;

I’m sure you get the Molotov cocktail reference, right? Molotov… cocktail… hot peppers… vodka…? Get it?

;

The concept is that with hot peppers, there’s a certain amount of capsaicin in them. The amount varies, and the Scoville scale is used to measure how much exactly there is (in numbered units), and therefore how hot they are. If you’re familiar with eating or cooking with a lot of hot peppers, you know that there are two major substances that can be used to diffuse the capsaicin, or cool the burn: fats & alcohols. So if you eat too much, a glass of beer or straight vodka (as will drinking a glass of whole milk or eating a heaping tablespoon of sour cream) will help kill that heat as the capsaicin is fat & alcohol soluble. Therefore, in a cocktail, or a pickle… if you’ve got some hot peppers, and you add a little alcohol, you’ll get the flavor & the heat but not the obnoxious heat that makes you wish you were dead. I added the Cajun Belle because it’s got some heat but it’s also sweeter, like a Bell pepper, so that also adds more flavor. You know, even jalapeño’s are too hot for a lot of people.

Here they are: right after adding the brine to the jars, pre-waterbath, then fully sealed & ready to rock-n-roll.

;

I used fresh dill for these, a few of the flowering “head” parts, a little just plain ol’ fresh dill. As well as using a red jalapeño, green jalapeño, a Cajun Belle, some pickling spice, a clove of garlic, & a dash of freshly ground black pepper, just to up the peppery heat a little more. The red jalapeño’s are hot but sweet, so they aren’t overwhelming like a Habanero. And of course… vodka! If you’re not a vodka drinker or don’t have any in your house ever, then you can go and buy one or two of those little tiny bottles at the liquor store. And if you’re opposed to using alcohol completely, just omit the vodka and use vinegar.

MOLOTOV COCKTAIL PICKLES

Makes roughly 2 pints

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 Kirby cucumbers, sliced into spears (or chips, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vodka (not flavored, unless you want to use hot pepper vodka, or split it half & half – half regular vodka and half hot pepper vodka)
  • 1 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • a dash of freshly ground black pepper for each jar
  • 6 cloves garlic (sliced or crushed, however you prefer)
  • 1 red jalapeño, 1 green jalapeño and one Cajun Belle, thinly sliced & seeded (or Serrano or Habanero if you’re really adventurous)
  • 2-4 sprigs fresh dill/dill heads

Directions:

  1. Add the spices and the garlic to the jars, distributing them equally. Cut up cucumbers, pack loosely in the still-hot sterilized jars along with the peppers, distributing them equally as well.
  2. Bring liquids and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/2″-inch headspace. Place lids, screw bands to fingertip tight, and process jars for 10 minutes in a waterbath canner.
  3. Check for seal after 12 hours, if not sealed put them in the fridge and eat ‘em now. If they are sealed, let these bad boys sit for a week or so to infuse all the flavors together.

And so… a week later…

;

Like, WHOA. These came out pretty hot. Not like my habanero pickles from last year… smoke came out of people’s ears after a few bites of them. These aren’t like that. But still, they’re pretty hot, just a different kind of heat. However, the vodka does actually lessen the burn! They have a definite pickle taste, but also a very definite (and quite prominent) pepper flavor & heat. Honestly? They’re really hard to describe. They aren’t really for the casual pickle-lover; between the vodka & the peppers, it’s certainly a designer or novelty pickle. A pickle for the more adventurous among us.

After all, only the adventurous would eat a pickle dubbed a Molotov Cocktail pickle.

;

The funny thing is, “canning season” as we know it is almost over. The fruits and veggies of the summer are almost finished, with tomatoes finishing up. Yes you can “can” all year. But the majority of can-able things are in season from spring to fall. During the winter, unless you live in a warm climate (aside from citrus: lemons/oranges/clementines/tangerines and of course pomegranates) there isn’t much to make that’s fresh. So right about now is the time when everyone who cans & jars up their food is pretty much done, and torn between pride when looking at everything they’ve put up and sadness because it’s over. For the most part. Which is why when I saw this photo I laughed… because it’s so true.

Credit: Union Square Greenmarket

;

;

;

Molotov Cocktail pickles on Punk Domestics

A time to plant, a time to sow.

;

Yes, I know, you’re all in “fall-mode” already. Me too. It’s hard not to be when Halloween has infiltrated every store & every blog (or Pinterest page) is pushing pumpkin desserts! And I’ve got those coming for you, too. But first there’s still some wrapping up to do when it comes to summer. Namely the garden.

Every year at this time, I start to dry my herbs. They continue growing until mid to late October, usually, unless it gets very cold at night very quickly. As do the peppers, sometimes. But the herbs usually get so large midway through the summer, that I end up cutting them back in late July and using most of them fresh (or freezing them). The rest I dry and add to my dried herb jars. Then I cut them back again in September. Drying fresh herbs is one of the easiest things to do, as is freezing them, and if you grow your own herbs I strongly suggest you do it! For cilantro, I suggest freezing it in olive oil. Basil is also good that way, as well as rosemary. You can freeze them in water, too, if you prefer. As far as drying them, there are, of course, quite a few different ways to do it… but this is what I do. I bought little jars from Ikea to store them in, but small Ball jars work too, as do cleaned out baby food jars. All you have to do is cut your herbs and give them a good shake outside to evict any unwanted tenants. Not cilantro, though, dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh and it’s not really worth it. You’re better off freezing that. Anyhow, cut ‘em down and give ‘em a a shake or two… then give them a good rinse and let them dry overnight on a paper towel or clean dish towel. The next morning, tie the ends of each herb together to create a bunch, and tie with soft twine (or use a small rubber band). Place them in a brown paper lunch bag that you already labeled and “hang” them in it, gathering the top of the bag together around the bottom of the stems and tying it. Then hang the bags or place them in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you’ll have dried herbs (if not, let them hang another week, there shouldn’t be any moisture left in them). Take them out of the bags and gently tug, pull or scrape the leaves of the herbs off the stems with your fingers. You can crumble the basil, oregano & parsley at this point, if you wish. Place them in your jars and label. Or, if you have non-edible lavender, use it in a sachet. All done!

;

Anyway… as you might have guessed, this is the last garden post of the season. Sad, yes. But each year it comes whether we like it or not. The good things far outweigh the bad: the fresh veggies that start to come in record numbers, the fresh herbs that grow like crazy, and the delicious meals, sauces & salsas that can come of them all.

;

Except this year.

;

This year I was lucky to get 8 Cajun Belle peppers, 4 SuperTasty Hybrid tomatoes and 1 Green Zebra tomato. That’s it. Of course, my herbs were huge and I got tons of use out of them all season, not to mention the pesto I’ll be making & freezing because my basil is taking over a small country. But my vegetables were not at all what they have been in the past. Why? I don’t know. The weather, maybe? I know the country is having the worst drought in two decades. But here in NY, it was a pretty wet summer (wetter than usual), but that flip-flopped from very very hot to very very wet almost constantly. The plants barely had time to dry out and recover from one storm by the time another one hit. Though really, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the crazy wind with all those severe thunderstorms (& tornadoes! WHAT?), maybe it was the really bad heat in between all that, maybe it was just me. My mind has been other places this summer, and I haven’t been as anal-retentive about keeping up with the gardening. I noticed some funky curly leaves on the tomatoes and I never even did anything about it. I haven’t weeded or used any fertilizer/plant food at all either. And maybe it was the fact that I chose heirloom tomatoes, not hardier disease-resistant ones this season. But regardless, no matter what the reason, that’s all I got so far. The “mystery plant” died sometime in mid-August, so I guess I’ll never know what it was (glad we weren’t taking bets!). Now my peppers & tomatoes will probably keep growing for a few more weeks, or at least until it gets too cold at night, but I doubt I’ll get much more out of them. Of course, if I end up with anything else, you’ll all read about it for sure. But basically, that was my bounty of 2012, and I was lucky to get it.

;

But it was still worth it. Each tomato or pepper is one more tomato or pepper I didn’t have to buy.

;

I cut those last three peppers off before they matured, because I wanted to use a variety of peppery heat in a dish I was making. The green tomato took forever to finish growing, it wasn’t done until last week. And the SuperTasty’s? Ugh. They were a struggle all season. Like I said, I could probably take some of the blame, if not most- I wasn’t 100% invested this year. But the weather was downright bizarre, so I’m just going to use that as my excuse. In all my years of having a veggie/herb garden, this is the first year my bounty was pathetic, so I guess I should be thankful. And the best part? Using fresh tomato slices from my own plant, and fresh oregano to make a fantastic light hot weather dinner: a tomato feta open-face sandwich, using one of my SuperTasty hybrid tomatoes & both kinds of fresh oregano.

;

I feel almost silly for writing up the recipe for this, it’s so easy, but epicurious.com did too, so I’m in good company. This is a good way to enjoy the fruits of your garden on a really hot, sticky late summer night. Or a slightly warm early fall evening.

TOMATO-FETA OPEN FACE SANDWICH (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • Thick slices of white bread (Pullman loaf is ideal)
  • Olive oil (good quality oil meant for eating)
  • Tomato slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Slabs or crumbles of feta
  • Fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast thick slices of white bread, then drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Add tomato slices, salt and freshly ground black pepper, slabs of feta, fresh oregano, and more oil.
  3. Eat!

I bet this sandwich would look delightful with different colored heirloom tomatoes, and it would probably be amazing with blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles too. Noms.

Raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam, or “rasp-jalantro.”

“One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
-Henry David Thoreau

;

I saw that quote the other day and it struck me, probably because I related it to the blog. How could I not, really? In a few ways…one, canning & preserving. Aren’t the two of those things doing exactly what that quote says- keeping a ‘little bittle’ of summer with us, all through fall & winter? Is that not how canning & preserving & pickling originated? Of course. And two, the very fact that I run a blog means I have an internet-based, HTML & CSS created cookbook & diary at my fingertips, 24/7/52/365. Even if my old pictures make me cringe (they’re all taken with FLASH!What the hell was I thinking?), I can look back at my summer posts on the coldest day in winter, when the snow is coming down and my toes freeze just walking to the car, just the same way I can look at those wintery posts about Shepherd’s Pie when it’s 100º outside and I sweat just thinking about having the oven on. But I digress.

The idea behind my coming up with this jam is pretty simple. I’d been thinking of a sweet/savory jam for a while now, after the success of last year’s habanero rosemary jelly & after hearing that my friend Chrisie made a blueberry-basil jam, but I just wasn’t sure what kind I wanted to make. Like most things I make, it ended up being carefully thought out, totally obsessed over and then in the end, made differently than I thought. Right away, I decided I’d do something raspberry-based. My initial idea was a raspberry-chipotle jam. I’m hugely into Mexican food, all things Mexican actually, and so chipotle just popped out at me.

One of my most prized possessions is this handpainted skull Jay got me in San Antonio, TX when he was there playing a show back in November.


;
He actually got me a TON of sugar skull stuff down there, all imported from Mexico: a handscreened oven mitt, a painted terracotta tile, etc, etc… and I love it all. But she’s by far my favorite. Jay got a matching more masculine one, too. We’re cheesy like that. Basically anything sugar skull themed is sure to make me smile.

Anyway, I wanted to make a spicy, savory yet still sweet jam. I was inspired by Chrisie’s blueberry-basil concoction, Mexico & it’s food/culture, and then… I saw some raspberry-chipotle sauces & salad dressings for sale. I’m out of the loop with that stuff, I’m more of a classic salad dressing & marinade girl, myself. No fruity or fancy stuff. I use Jack Daniel’s or Guinness barbecue sauce & blue cheese dressing, for goodness sake. But I figured if it makes a good sauce, it’ll probably make a damn good jam. However true to form, I had trouble finding chipotle peppers. Can I get a WTF? As a matter of fact, I couldn’t find them at all. Not in any ethnic, natural or gourmet market. I had to settle for using jalapeños, and threw a bit of cilantro in there for an added Southwestern flavor. Not that there’s anything wrong with jalapeños. I love them. They just have a very different kind of heat & flavor than chipotles, which are actually just smoked & dried red jalapeños. But the smoke was the thing I originally wanted for this jam. And yes I could’ve made my own, blah blah… but I wasn’t really in the mood to smoke & dry/dehydrate ONE jalapeño pepper myself to make 12 ounces of experimental jam. I had the berries, I needed to make the jam ASAP. So I used half of a green jalapeño I had already.

I also decided to make a very, very small batch just to test it out. How small? About three 4-oz. jars.


;
Yep. Super small batch! But number one, I wasn’t at all 100% confident in it’s deliciousness and two, how much raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam does one person need? Not that much really. Even if you do love it, you can only eat so much of it. And that’s another reason I like having the 4-ounce jars around, because they’re excellent for experimental jams & jellies (and also for overflow; a.k.a. the bit left over after you fill your jars up that isn’t quite enough for a full jar). You don’t have to feel horrible about tossing it (if it’s crappy) when it’s only one or two tiny jars worth. Unfortunately, the 4-ounce jars are insanely hard to find. At least around here. My dad managed to pick me up a case at a Walmart recently, but I’ve only found them ONE other time in a store and it was around Christmas.

The ingredients are pretty easy to remember: raspberries, sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, one half of a jalapeño, and fresh cut cilantro. I adapted a basic raspberry jam recipe to suit my needs and just added the pepper. I tossed in some roughly chopped cilantro at the end, right before removing it from the heat. I’m giving you my recipe, but of course it can be changed slightly to adapt it to you. If you prefer more heat, add the entire pepper… for less heat, use a pepper that isn’t so hot. You can also use a Serrano or Anaheim pepper. If you like more cilantro, add more. If you don’t like cilantro, take it out altogether. Because it’s such a small recipe, you can also double and even triple it with good results. You don’t need any added pectin. I’m not really sure why people use commercial pectin with blackberries, raspberries & blueberries. You don’t need it. If you dislike the seeds, you can remove them. I find they add a nice texture, plus they’re healthy. But if you really hate ‘em, this blog has a recipe for seedless raspberry jam that you can get some seed-removal tips from.

;

RASPBERRY-JALAPEÑO-CILANTRO JAM

Makes about three 4-ounce jars

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces fresh raspberries, washed
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • half of one jalapeño pepper (or more or less, depending on taste), chopped or diced
  • a tablespoon or two roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Place the raspberries in a medium saucepan. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush them as best you can. Add the sugar and lime juice, then stir.
  2. Turn the heat on medium and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped jalapeño. Keep cooking it until it reaches the desired thickness (or “set”; this can be different times for different people/ovens/pots). Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, stirring until it’s combined.
  3. Ladle the jam into your hot, sterilized jars. Wipe rims, place lids, and process for 10 minutes.

If you can find chipotles, or you have them already, feel free to use some finely diced chipotle in this. The smokiness would be fantastic, and you can use a little more of them than jalapeños without burning someone’s mouth off with the holy-crap-I-was-unprepared-for-the-hotness-in-a-raspberry-jam stuff going on in this. I actually might just have to do another version of this after I find some chipotle.

You can also add a little more lime juice if you want, or take it out altogether. I liked the tartness it added.


;
It looks pretty delish, doesn’t it? And it WAS. Quelle surprise. I was genuinely surprised, seriously. I didn’t have high hopes for this one for some reason, but it was definitely successful.

It’s great on a cracker- the ones above are some kind of Wheat Thins herb-y flatbread cracker thing- but it’s also good whisked with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar) and made into a salad dressing. And of course, it’d probably be excellent melted down and used as a sauce for chicken or even chicken wings. You could probably find a couple of different ways to use it. I bet it would be good with certain cheeses, too. Ooh! And on cornbread! Ohhh, the possibilities. Just endless.

;

I’m sure you’ve got the eating part covered. So make it. Worse comes to worse, if you don’t wildly love it- sharing is caring. Everyone loves a jar of something homemade, right? Just be sure to let them know there are hot peppers in there, or else they might get a nasty surprise & also might not want to eat much of your canned foods after that.

And for those of you thinking “Where the F&%! are the cupcakes?!” they’re coming! This week! It’s been really hot here, and I haven’t been in much of a mood for tackling frosting & things more complicated than cobblers. But have no fear. The cupcakes are coming.

;

Raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam. on Punk Domestics

Asian-inspired quick pickles.

My grandmother had a thing for all things Asian. She was totally immersed in the culture. She read Pearl S. Buck books over & over again (The Good Earth being a favorite), collected cloisonné ginger jars & imported Japanese figurines, had a large Buddha statue sitting cross-legged in meditation pose next to her couch, had porcelain Geisha girl lamps and even had a mural of a bonsai tree on her living room wall. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. She had tons of hand-held fans with Oriental scenes on them. She loved movies like Raise the Red Lantern & The Last Emperor. She loved jade. She loved Asian food, Asian history, Asian-inspired scents, Asian clothes; Cheongsams & kimono robes. She was a major Asiaphile, which I always thought was funny for a little red-headed Irish woman from the Bronx. But it just fascinated her, that’s all.


So, you can see why recipes like this immediately make me think of her, and how much she’d love it.

This is a kind of Frankenstein pickle recipe. Meaning that I got the idea from two sources: Food in Jars’ Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles and The Foodinista‘s posting of Momofuku Pickles and morphed the two into my own version of an Asian pickle. Both pickles are refrigerator pickles, meaning there’s no canning involved. Both pickles also use rice vinegar/rice wine vinegar (as far as I’m concerned, both are interchangeable). One uses hot peppers & some herbs, the other is just straight forward. I like a little added oomph in my life, so I decided to do the herb thing as well. I thought cilantro sounded fantastic; I made some green coriander pickles last summer that Jay would’ve definitely, without question, defended to the death had they been threatened in any way. So yeah, I knew cilantro was the herb of choice for me, although Marisa says you can also use mint instead, as well as use green onions or scallions in place of shallots. You can also totally omit all the extras and make it with just cucumbers/vinegar/sugar/salt if you wish.

These photos were taken after they sat in the fridge overnight. Feel free to cut your cukes thinner, if you want to use them as more of a condiment.



ASIAN-INSPIRED PICKLES

Makes roughly two pints or one quart

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 smallish pickling cucumbers, cut into slices
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced, or a 1 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes (optional, I left them out)
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 small shallot, cut into thin slices
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
  • 4-5 sprigs of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Directions:

  1. Pack the cukes into the clean jar. Stuff the pepper in there too, or sprinkle the pepper flakes in on top.
  2. In a glass bowl, mix the rice vinegar, shallot, garlic, cilantro, salt and lime juice together. Pour the boiling water over it, and stir. Pour into the jar, and using a butter knife, poke the garlic/shallot/cilantro down amongst the cukes as well as you can.
  3. Screw a lid on the jar as tightly as you can, and give it a good shake or two to distribute things. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours to marinate before eating, toss after a month.

It’s a lovely, bright, crisp pickle. Very summery. Like I said, I omitted the pepper, but because it’s a fridge pickle, if you decide it’s too bland for you without the heat- you can always add a sliced up pepper. Then just put it back in the fridge and let it sit another 24 hours. Which is exactly what I did! Haha. Turns out, it needed a bit of a kick. So I had two red jalapeños left over from some other kitchen wizardry, and I took one, seeded it & removed the ribs/inner membrane, sliced it up into very thin slices and tucked them in the jar. If sliced thin enough one jalapeño is enough for three pint jars.



Just be sure to wear gloves when cutting hot peppers. It may sound silly, but bad reactions are common… some people can develop blisters and burns from even the mildest hot pepper, and even if you don’t, in the best case scenario the pepper oil will stay under your fingernails & in your skin for a while, causing issues when you rub your eyes or use the bathroom later on. Red jalapeños are slightly hotter than green ones, but also sweeter, just so you know. I’m aware that the jalapeño is not an Asian pepper, but you use what you’ve got, right? If you can get your hands on a Thai Chili pepper or a Goat Horn, then good for you. Otherwise, use what you have.

If you’ve got a rice vinegar that’s 5% acidity, you can most certainly change these to a be a shelf-stable, waterbath-process friendly pickle. My vinegar was only around 4.3% so I left them as fridge pickles. And did you notice these awesome jars!? I finally found them! The elusive Ball Collection Elite® 16-oz. jars. *siiiiiigh* And of all places, I found them in a Target. GO FIGURE. Not my Target, of course, but a Target like 5 towns away. After a year and a half of searching, they’re finally mine.

Playing in the dirt.

I thought I’d do a quick little update on the garden while things were a bit slow around here due to today’s excessive heat & sunshine that’ll blind you.

(Alright, I’m lying. It’s not that slow around here, nor is it that hot – it’s around 91° F, which compared to our 101° temps last week is nothing. I just wanted to do a garden update. Whatever.)

And so I’ll begin this written portion of the program by saying that while every other woman in the country (seemingly) is squealing in excitement for the final film installment of The Twilight Saga and/or reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been gardening, cooking, baking, canning, beaching, grilling, strolling, sunbathing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Not that there’s anything wrong with the aforementioned activities. I’m just saying. Summer goes by quickly, folks. Enjoy it while it’s here! The winter is loooong.

But right now, it’s pretty much hotter than hell most days. That sun I photographed above beats down relentlessly (when it’s not pouring rain & thundering, oh the joys of high humidity!) on everything making the sidewalk so hot I could fry my peppers outdoors. This poor little guy was one of the (probably many) casualties of the heat. I call him The Jesus Lizard, because a few weeks prior, I found a lizard laying in quite the same position, and assumed him dead. Yet when I went to brush him off the walkway into the flowerbed (I don’t know why, my version of a lizard burial I suppose) he flipped over and scooted away. This time… however… he was 100% definitely dead. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is that very same lizard. So of course, what else would I call him but the Jesus Lizard? Somewhere, many other lizards are awaiting his second coming. Until then, rest in peace little dude.

The heat is no joke. This is why they tell you to check on the elderly & young’ns and make sure your pets have plenty of cold fresh water. Anyway… let’s get back to something pleasant: my container garden! Prepare for lots of photos.

Cajun Belle pepper

Green Zebra heirloom tomato

SuperTasty Hybrid tomato

Herbs; dill, cilantro, rosemary

Oregano

Variegated oregano

Mint

Rosemary

Lavender (not edible)

Basil

The “Mystery Plant”

So yeah. That’s pretty much that.

The interesting thing is that “Mystery Plant” there. Whatever it is, it’s a plant from last year that I thought was just dead wood. However, I failed to remove it from the pot at the end of the season in October, and the tag that told me what it was went missing over the winter. So I was surprised to see that there was green life coming from the dead-looking brown stalk a month ago, and I decided to leave it and see what came of it. It’s gotten bigger, with more green growing, but I’m not 100% sure what it is. It’s possible it’s my Habanero plant, or it could be a Bell pepper. It’s definitely not a tomato, and I doubt it’s an eggplant. But I guess we’ll see, right?! Whatever it is, it’s a pleasant surprise, and a testament to life and nature. It’s so true what my grandma used to say: where there’s life- there’s hope! Except for Jesus Lizard, that is.

I did have one little casualty. A Cajun Belle fell off the vine prematurely. It was so cute, and so perfectly formed… but so tiny! So I tossed it into the grass for the local bunnies or my friendly raccoon family to nibble on.

My mint is struggling to come back full force, which kinda sucks- I have a feeling by the time it’s huge the season will be over and it’ll be time for me to cut it down and dry it. It’s turning brown slightly on the edges. Blah. I’ll update again once more things start to come around. Basil? For a while it wasn’t doing too well- it seemed to be shrinking. But now it’s better. My cilantro took a nose dive, though. My tomatoes are taking an extra long time, trying my patience, for sure. I lost two buds (one from each) in a bad thunderstorm that lasted over 12+ hours and it took forever for the other teeny buds to catch up. Ugh. Hurry up tomatoes!

At least I hope they get here before Breaking Dawn pt. 2.

Kidding.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

My name is a derivative of Mary, did you know that? It’s an old English form of the name. Fancier than Mary, but still the same name & the meaning (of the original Hebrew root name, Miryam, that is) ranges from bitter/bitterness, salty to rebellion, obstinacy. I’d like to think I’m not bitter, but salty… yes. I can be a bit salty at times. And rebellious? Totally. I’ll even admit to obstinate.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with gardening. Does explain the title of this post, though. And it explains partially why my grandmother used to call me ‘Rosie the Riveter.’ I grow my own veggies & herbs in the spring/summer, bake, cook, can my own pickles/jams/jellies/sauces/etc. I can sew. I am the modern Rosie the Riveter, I guess. I can fix anything, I can paint, I can repair almost anything or install almost anything. I think it’s important to be independent. Women who are the “damsels in distress” make me want to vomit. There’s a balance though. Yes, I like doors held open for me and I like things done for me. Yes, I like to be protected and feel safe. Yes, it’s nice when a man shovels the snow for me, carries the groceries or offers to climb the ladder to fix XYZ, etc. Of course I like that. But do I need a man (or another human for that matter) to help me do things? Not most of the time. I can handle pretty much anything you throw at me. And I think that there are a lot of women who agree with me, but there are also a lot who don’t, surprisingly. They need a man to change a lightbulb or hang a picture. It’s ridiculous. Get up off your ass and learn to do something. I just hate whiny little wussy women who don’t know how to do anything. I remember when I was 17 I had to tell my then boyfriend which was the transmission fluid in his car and which was the oil. And I didn’t even own a car myself at the time- nor did I drive!

Anyway. I digress. I definitely scaled back the garden this year. I’ve got the same amount of herbs that I usually do, but I only got two tomatoes and one pepper. I didn’t grow from seed, I bought baby plants instead to lighten my load, so to speak. And also because I missed the seed-planting boat. But like I mentioned last time, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to invest in it this year, so I did want to scale back. But half the herbs were already growing (chives, both oregano, mint & parsley) so honestly, how scaled back could it be? Not only that, but my freakin’ chives could’ve taken over a small country… let alone my oregano. I mistakenly didn’t prune them back last fall so this year they were ridiculous. Scale back? Right. In for a penny, in for a pound, so I bought a few veggie plants and called it a day.

And no. I don’t care if you think that it’s cheating that I didn’t grow them from seeds. I’ve got so much else going on, and I do this for fun. I can’t be Wonder Woman. Well, not all the time. So save your preaching & crap for a blogger who cares & who buys into it. I’m not sustaining my entire family to get through the summer. I’m just doing this because I enjoy it.

So, the tally this year is:

  1. Green Zebra Heirloom tomato
  2. Cajun Belle pepper
  3. SuperTasty Hybrid tomato
  4. Rosemary
  5. Chives
  6. Variegated oregano
  7. Oregano
  8. Mint (small, but still trying to come back!)
  9. Italian parsley
  10. Sweet basil
  11. Lavender
  12. Cilantro
  13. Dill

I wanted to grow an heirloom tomato for a while, so I went with the Green Zebra because it was different. The other tomato? Well I got it because I wanted a regular old red tomato as well. The pepper is supposedly sweet but hot, which has a nice sound. After the Habanero’s last year, I needed a break from the super hot peppers. I ended up with 800 Hab’s and I had no idea what to do with them all! I might break down & buy another small vegetable at the nursery before the season is over, because I’m crazy like that. I’m like the crazy cat lady but with plants. Remember my half-dead blueberry bush from last year? It died, by the way. Didn’t make it through the winter. But I can’t help myself, I go into a nursery and I see all those little plants looking all lonely…

At any rate, here’s some photos from when I first planted & cleaned up my little container garden. The two tomatoes first (Green Zebra left and Super Tasty right), then the pepper (close up) then the herbs- the first photo of those two has the two different types of oregano/cilantro/dill/rosemary and the Cajun pepper (while it was still just flowering), the last photo has the basil and lavender. Things have changed since then, so scroll on down and see!

I’m slightly concerned that I’ve read the Green Zebra tomato isn’t very disease resistant & also that aphids seem to love it. I hate to think that it’ll die or be a waste, but even if I get one or two tomatoes from it I’ll be appeased. Aphids love my roses too, for some strange reason more so my Intrigue & Queen Elizabeth, but so far this year I haven’t seen any. Here’s hoping they stay away! Yeah. I know. I’m dreaming.

As the last thing for this post, here are some of my flowers so far. They’re absolutely beautiful; clockwise from top left… Pansy, Rose, Dianthus and Petunia.

Grilled pickles, a.k.a. barbecue-in-a-jar.

Joy comes to you in many ways. I find joy in lots of things- my family, spending time with Jay, cooking, baking, gardening, my pets (especially when they’re all cuddly & sleepy), fashion magazines, a nice cup of high quality coffee with cream & sugar, the color of the leaves in the fall, the smell of fresh herbs being chopped, walking through a museum, a summer rain, the J. Crew catalog coming in the mail, drinking a good bottle of wine, the smell of fresh oranges being sliced, Lola, anything Le Creuset, my new ‘as-yet-unnamed’ digital KitchenAid hand mixer, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, beautiful well-done tattoos, watching movies, a delicious dark chocolaty stout, sleeping late in freshly laundered sheets, eating a good meal of greasy pub food, a new pair of menswear-style pajamas, Central Park in the spring, shopping for handbags & shoes & lingerie & kitchen gadgets… and lots more. I find joy in writing about things I find joy in, apparently. I even find joy in buying produce. Probably because I buy most things with a specific idea of what I’m using it for, so I’m already excited & looking forward to it. But more so than that, I just like the colors of the fruits & vegetables, the shiny finish or rough textures, the irregularities, the perfection. It’s always an exciting trip, that trip to the fruit market or farmer’s market. And now that cucumber season is here, that means pickling, which also excites me & brings me joy. Mainly because my pickles are the most requested item I make next to cupcakes. And people are always asking for more, more, more; whether it’s more of new & different kinds or just more of the regular old kind. I don’t like pickles, myself, but it’s a perfect example of creating things just because people I love enjoy them.

Another thing that brings me joy? The smell of a charcoal grill.

There’s nothing like that smell. Gas grills may be great and all, but my heart will always belong to charcoal. You can’t get the same flavor on a gas grill, carcinogens be damned. Now… you’ve heard of fried pickles, surely. I even posted a recipe for them myself. Those are a slightly fattier & more decadent delight than these. These, they’re different. These pickles are pickles that are grilled, not fried, but they aren’t grilled after they’re pickled. They’re grilled before.

Basically, you wash & slice your cukes & onions, then grill them. Let them cool, then jar ‘em up. What you end up with is an amazingly different pickle. The charbroiled pickle… sorta. I got the idea & basic recipe from an article over at Serious Eats. What I did, though, was I grilled a jalapeno & added it in to two of the jars as well. I thought maybe that would add a totally different flavor profile to it than just the crushed red pepper. For the other jar, I just left it at about a ¼ teaspoon-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

The coolest thing though is that they don’t have to be processed. You can make these into refrigerator pickles, too! So don’t be scared to try them. And unlike me, don’t be scared to leave them on long enough to get really good grill marks. I was so worried they’d burn, my marks were a little weak. Eh. Whatever.

GRILLED PICKLES (adapted from a recipe created by Chris Lilly posted on Serious Eats)

Makes about 3 one-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups distilled white vinegar, 5%
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 small jalapeno peppers (or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, as called for in the original recipe)
  • 5 large cucumbers, cut into 4 to 5-inch spears
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into ½-inch disks and skewered horizontally
  • 6 sprigs dill
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt (and red pepper if using), whisking until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.
  3. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cucumbers, onions & peppers on grill. Cook cucumbers until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred on both sides and slightly softened, about 4 minutes per side. Cook jalapenos just until they “blister” a little. Remove to tray. Allow to cool. Quarter onions.
  4. Place 2 sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of garlic in each jar. Divide cucumbers and onions equally between each jar. Pour in pickling liquid, leaving ½”-inch of headroom between liquid and top of jar. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating for quick pickles, or process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal lids, then store in a cool, dark place.

When you open the jar, you’re hit with a smell of smoke. You really wouldn’t believe it, but the smokiness overpowers the dill and the vinegar! It smells like a charcoal grill in a jar. On that note let me say that if you have a gas grill, I don’t think the flavor or odor will be anything like this. You might get great grill-marks, but I don’t think you’ll get the smokiness you get with a charcoal grill. And if you’re one of those expert smoker people, then maybe using different kinds of wood as well can get you different flavors & smells. Same goes for using different peppers. Try a Serrano, or if you’re daring, try a Habanero for a crazy-hot smokiness.

I’d like to try these in different ways- maybe made with apple cider vinegar or maybe some booze. I’d even like to try a grilled Giardiniera, or grilled zucchini pickles. I really think this idea is kinda genius for summertime. A jar of these & a jar of that Guinness barbecue sauce would make any dad happy on Father’s Day, don’t you think?