Category: vegetables

Sad news, pickled asparagus & such.

Before I start getting into recipes, I’m sorry to say it’s been a difficult few days for us- Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away on Saturday. We’re all really torn up, we adored her. She was an amazing cook & an amazing grandma. She wasn’t my grandma by blood but I couldn’t have loved her more if she was. What a beautiful soul, inside & out (as you can see). I’m sorry that I won’t be making her her much-requested apricot or strawberry sugar-free jam this year… she’ll be missed terribly.

My heart hurts.

Grandma Dorothy Liff October 2, 1923 - March 29, 2014.Dorothy Liff ¤ October 2, 1923 – March 29, 2014

 

This recipe was written up last week, ready to go, & Grandma Dotty was big into cooking (which I’ll be writing more about very soon). She’d have wanted to hear more about all my recipes, or what I was making, so here it is. There’s no segue into this… and I feel weird doing so… but away we go.

We’re all patiently waiting for spring, right? I mean it technically IS spring. But we’re all waiting for it to get more spring-y. So spring veggies are a good sign, no? Now, let me just say: I don’t like asparagus. Not one bit. That said, it’s everywhere in the springtime, rearing its weird little pointy kinda flowery little  heads all over the place.

Pickled asparagus recipe!

Meh.

I don’t even like the way it smells.

Makin' some pickled asparagus!

My mother & Jay LOVE asparagus. LOVE it. I don’t have the foggiest clue why really. It’s not attractive in the least. And like I said; the smell? No thanks.

Unlike broccoli… which I plan on pickling soon as well. Broccoli has a nice, fresh smell. And it’s delicious.

Did I get sidetracked?

An easy pickled asparagus recipe!

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A fairy tale of eggplant proportions.

Magical trees.

Funny thing, memories are. When I was a wee little tot, there was a tulip tree on my property that had a hole in the bottom. It was one of the original trees from when the house was built, so by the time I was a kid it was already not only over 30-something years old, but massive. Right where the trunk met the grass, the roots grew in such a way that made it look like there was a doorway leading into the tree. A little cave, or “fairy house.” It intrigued me so much, that little door. I used to imagine that little creatures lived in there, and had a whole little tree house with furniture made of twigs & carpets made of woven grass. Maybe fairies, maybe gnomes, maybe even mice or squirrels. Preferably the kind that wear little vests & glasses.

Sadly, I grew up… & the tree was removed because it got too big.

Keeping that in mind, think of what went through my mind when I saw this recipe for “Pickled fairy tale eggplant” over at Food in Jars. It immediately conjured up images of fairies & that little door in the tree. It brought back memories that had absolutely nothing to do with eggplant. So of course, I had to make it. However- I do not like eggplant. In the past, I’ve made things like melanzane sott’olio & passed ‘em along to my mother. So I figured why not do that again… who could turn down a pretty pinkish jar of something called fairy tale eggplant?

(I know, I’ve been stalking Food in Jars lately. I can’t help it)

Sicilian eggplant. Close enough to "fairy tale" eggplant for a jar of pickles, right?

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Saying goodbye to summer with tomato jam.

Wow. Hey there, end of summer.

You snuck up on me, as you usually do. But this time I feel like I really haven’t been expecting you at all. By this time in years’ past I have already thought about you once or twice, usually around my birthday. I have perhaps even dwelled upon you, sadly, as I acknowledge the days already getting a smidgen shorter, & the cicadas song plays the finale. But this year? You got me good. Suddenly, it’s the unofficial end of summer: Labor Day.

A delicious tomato jam; try it with goat cheese on toasted bread for a different spin on bruschetta!

I feel like I haven’t made a whole lot of things I wanted to this summer. Having a blog makes you a bit crazy, see. I wanted to make all these awesome things over the summer & then blog about them. I wanted to take some tomato canning classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I had big plans for recipes- Miemo’s mama’s eggrolls, paella. Things like that. Things that were new to me (kitchen-wise), things that I never made before. I did make one-pan pasta & homemade butter, though, both of which are things I’d never done. But the other, more complicated things? Nope. I got caught up in the enjoyment of summer… the corn on the cob, the cookouts, the lazy sticky days & humid starry nights roasting marshmallows, drinking frozen alcoholic drinks, the soaking in of the sun, eating fresh fish after a day at the beach, the making of pickles & jams, the cutting of herbs, the inhaling of said herbs (frequently heard around here: “OH MY GOD that fresh basil/cilantro/oregano/rosemary smells AMAZING!”). Then I was tricked by the unseasonably cool weather (not a day over 90 degrees in August) & I was lulled into having the windows open with cool air blowing in. But I still forgot all about the end of summer. Basically, I got distracted living life.

There are worse things.

Stepping away from the internet is a good thing. Anyway… I got distracted & forgot that summer was about to end. Summer is weird that way; it starts to end the minute it begins and before you know it you’re catching up, trying to squeeze in the last bits of it any way you can. Now, suddenly, it’s tomato time.

Fresh grape tomatoes... about to be turned into tomato jam.

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Kosher dills, TAKE TWO!

Retro 1957 Heinz Kosher dill pickle ad.

Uhm, I beg to differ, Heinz. ‘Cause these pickles right here are quite the sensation round my way.

You might remember, if you’re a longtime reader, the Kosher dill pickles I made a few years ago from a recipe by Arthur Schwartz (I guess you realize right about now that “take two” means this is my second time making them, not that I want you to take two of them. Heh.).

I made them the first time two summers ago while Jay was away on tour, and when he came home he flipped. He totally loved them, was obsessed in fact. And yes, he said they were his “favorite pickles” (until he tasted the grilled pickles, the hop pickles, the maple whiskey pickles…etc, etc). I tease him about that a lot. But I do know that despite the fact that he might love all kinds of pickles, Kosher dills are his absolute favorite. The less vinegar, the better. No vinegar at all? Perfect!

Arthur Schwartz's Kosher dill recipe.

They taste just like a deli pickle, apparently. Super crunchy & half-sour, like a “new” dill. He’s been asking me to make them again ever since, & I’ve slacked off.

Yeah, I’m horrible. But he’ll get over it- he gets a lot of treats.

So anyway here’s version two of Arthur’s recipe, adapted for a smaller scale (yields 1 quart as opposed to 3). Pro tip: Make sure you get cucumbers that are all the same size & shape, roughly. They’ll ferment at the same time more than a variety of sizes would. Unless you’re going to cut them into slices or “chips”, that is.

Kosher dill pickle recipe, 3-6 days to ferment.

How to make Kosher dill pickles at home! NO CANNING NEEDED!

This recipe makes some beautiful pickles.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S HOMEMADE KOSHER DILL* PICKLES (Adapted by David Leibovitz from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking)

Makes 1 quart or 2 pints, can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse white salt (Kosher, if available)
  • 5-7 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining water.
  2. Prepare jars (1 quart or 2 pint jars, preferably wide mouth) by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.
  3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them. You can also slice the cukes into spears or slices, whatever you prefer.
  4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days. You’ll probably have leftover brine, so either make another batch or just toss it… yes it’s a little wasteful, but it’s just saltwater!
  5. After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become, however whole cucumbers that aren’t sliced at all might take longer in general. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.

Easy Kosher dill pickle recipe- no canning required.

*Just to clear this Kosher thing up:

A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.[3][4][5]

In New York terminology, a “full-sour” kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a “half-sour,” given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green.[6]Elsewhere, these pickles may sometimes be termed “old” and “new” dills.

Dill pickles (not necessarily described as “kosher”) have been served in New York City since at least 1899.[7] They are not, however, native to New York; they have been prepared in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Poland for hundreds of years.[citation needed]

So these are kind of a cross between a refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle & a shelf-stable pickle, seeing as how you end up refrigerating them & not processing them, yet they do in fact sit out for a while to “ferment.” They’re incredibly easy to make, and they really don’t have any of the somewhat “scary” elements of fermentation/lacto-fermentation (no yeast forms, there’s no mold skimming, etc). It’s sort of an intro to refrigerator pickles, canning & fermenting all at once.

I do prefer to make these kinds of pickles one jar at a time, just because I run out of room & places to hide them during their 3-6 day fermentation period. It has to be a relatively cool, dark area… and there are only so many of those during the summer months. Plus, that cuts down on the amount of “NO NO NO! DON’T EAT THOSE YET!” moments. Which, in a house like mine, there are many. There are jars of things brewing, freezing or sitting just about everywhere; sourdough starters, cold brewed coffee, bacon fat, flax seed, spent grain, fermenting pickles… all of these things somewhere, whether in the fridge, freezer or counter.

Arthur Schwartz's easy Kosher dill pickle recipe.

They will get cloudy after a day or two, that’s perfectly normal. And yes, I recommend wide mouth jars for this particular recipe. Especially if you’re making whole pickles, not sliced. AND DO NOT USE LARGE WAXED CUCUMBERS FOR THIS. It just will not work well. The wax prevents anything from penetrating the cucumber, and even if you slice them the skin will still be waxy & weird. You can quadruple this recipe and make one gallon as well, if you enjoy pickles that much. I actually just invested in some half-gallon Ball® jars (mainly for making cold brewed & sun tea) & I also noticed that my dill is growing like crazy… so perhaps Jay has a full half-gallon of Kosher dills in his future!

I don’t know how often I have to keep saying this, but: ANYONE can make these! They’re insanely simple! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try making them.

Unless you don’t like pickles. In which case, can I interest you in a cake?

Tart & tangy lemon garlic tarragon pickles.

Happy Friday, folks. You might notice things look different around here; new images, etc. I’m in the (very slow) process of doing a full redesign- so if things look odd, for example if font sizes aren’t looking right, or images look bizarre, just bear with me. I like doing these things at 3:30 in the morning so there’s a chance things aren’t quite as they should be. In the meantime… any issues that may pop up are purely cosmetic. Everything is working, the recipe index is totally functional, as are the archives, categories & search features. And the recipes continue!

Finding new blogs to read that capture and actually hold my interest is something else I like doing at 2 or 3 in the morning. Jay gets home at around 2:30-3:00 a.m. and I usually wait up for him, so while I’m waiting if there’s nothing else to do, i.e. no movies/TV shows to watch, laundry to fold, blog posts to write/blog maintenance to take care of, e-mails to read or return, design work to be done, etc. If there’s none of that, I tuck into bed on the ol’ Macbook, maybe with some tunes, & look up new blogs. Sometimes, there are awful blogs. Really awful. Either they’re just poorly written, bad grammatically, uninteresting or they have such bad design I can’t even figure out what I’m looking at. As a matter of fact, I truly don’t even think most people know how many horrible blogs there are on the internet. I’d estimate the number at, oh… A LOT.

But other times I find a real diamond in the rough. Hidden internet gems that I’ve never seen or heard of before, just waiting there for me to find them. And I do. If you’re out there, & you’ve got a killer blog… I’ll find you. *cue this song* And when I find you, I spend what seems like hours scrolling through & going back through the archives like a web stalker. Is that creepy? Or is that totally normal?

Anyway.. how I find most of them are via links on other blogs, on Facebook, sometimes on Twitter, but most often via Pinterest photos, which is where I found the blog I’m ripping off this pickle recipe from.

Lemon garlic tarragon pickles. No canning required!

I first saw the photo for these pickles on Pinterest, and when I clicked through I saw the blog’s name was Pork n Whisk(e)y. How could I NOT love a blog with that name?! Come on now. Not to mention I clicked around & saw things like preserved oranges, ale mustard, bourbon sour cherry dark chocolate brownies, etc. I was hooked. I just love me a good blog, especially a good food blog.

When it comes to a food blog, the recipes are what pulls me in. But add some good photography & a clever name? I’m sold.

So then I make something from said blog, because you know something else I like to do at 2 a.m.? Make food. Since I had originally stumbled upon the lemon garlic tarragon pickles, that’s what I decided on making. It sounded different and it just so happens that in my jar stash, I had TWO quart jars left…

Tarragon is one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish and egg dishes. Tarragon is the main flavoring component ofBéarnaise sauce. Fresh, lightly bruised sprigs of tarragon are steeped in vinegar to produce tarragon vinegar.

Tarragon is used to flavor a popular carbonated soft drink in the countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and, by extension, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The drink, named Tarhun (Armenian pronunciation: [tɑɾˈxun] Тархун), is made out of sugary tarragon concentrate and colored bright green.

In Slovenia, tarragon is used as a spice for a traditional sweet cake called potica. In Hungary a popular kind of chicken soup is flavored with tarragon.

cis-Pellitorin, an isobutyramide eliciting a pungent taste, has been isolated from Tarragon plant.[5]

-Wikipedia

Tarragon is one of those herbs that isn’t for everyone. It has a faint licorice or anise-y flavor, but it’s also vaguely peppery. Very French, very summery, very fresh, very unique. Which means this is definitely not your every day ordinary dill pickle. But then again, when do I ever make those? I make pickles with beer & whiskey for crying out loud.

Quick & easy lemon garlic tarragon pickles. No canning required.Wow.. I cut some of those bad boys a bit unevenly didn’t I?

LEMON GARLIC TARRAGON PICKLES (from Pork n Whisk(e)y)

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 Kirby or other pickling cucumbers
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 5-6 tarragon sprigs
  • 1 1/2 cup distilled 5% white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Wash & cut the cucumbers into quarters, lengthwise, trimming off the blossom end (if kept on, it makes for mushy pickles). Place the cucumbers, lemon zest and tarragon into a quart jar that’s been sterilized.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice, water, garlic and vinegar over medium-high heat to a simmer. Then add salt, peppercorns and sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Pour lemon juice mixture over cucumbers and tarragon in the jar. Let cool loosely covered until near room temperature.
  4. Seal and place in refrigerator. Keeps for at least 3 weeks, however they’ll probably be okay far longer.

Quick, simple, refreshing & easy. Still tart & sour, but in a very different way than your average, everyday pickle. My mother says they’re great with cream cheese (!). Seriously. I don’t know about that but she swears by it. And the best part (for most of you)… no canning required! Although if you wanted to, you could certainly make these shelf-stable; it seems to me that there’s plenty of vinegar in the recipe to do so. And if I’m wrong (because I’m no Master Preserver), it shouldn’t be too hard to tweak it.

If you’re looking for other pickle recipes to create this summer, I have a ton. Take a look at the pickling/pickles categories & take your pick (pun intended). Happy June.

Lemon garlic tarragon pickles.

And in case you’re wondering, some other recent blog discoveries of mine (that have become instant favorites) include Skunkboy, Headed Out West, The Militant Baker, Farmette, Spoon Fork Bacon, {local milk}, Cook Republic & Tartlet Sweets.

Medicinal pickled garlic & other hippie stuff.

As loath as I am to label people, I admit at times it’s easier to put people in categories or boxes. So I have to say: I’m not a hippie. I’m pretty far from a hippie, really. Just because I like growing my own vegetables, walking barefoot most of the time & making my own bread doesn’t mean I have any hippie-ness in me. I’m quite the opposite- I’m all spikes, short hair (sometimes I’m known to rock a mohawk), heavy boots & black eye makeup/nail polish. Being a punk rock fashionista who went to school for fashion design, for me hippies were always dirty druggies who didn’t have enough self pride to shower, wear bras, style their hair or wear shoes that weren’t Jesus sandals. Although the questioning of authority part & “tree-hugging” things are just fine with me, there are other parts of the ethos I just can’t dig on, man.

And the clothes?

A bunch of hippies, doin' their hippie thing.

Ugh.

However, making your own everything, also known as D.I.Y., is a HUGE thing to me. I’ve been doing it for years; from cutting & dying my own hair, to making clothes & accessories & jewelry to the hand-painted cloth punk rock band patches/t-shirts I was known for creating in high school. It was only once I got into cooking & baking that I started making my own foods; pickles & jams, salad dressing, infused oils, drying my own herbs, and harnessing the power of things like vinegar (it cleans & cures EVERYTHING!). So if that alone makes you a hippie by definition, then… I guess I really am one.

I just dress better than most.

Medicinal pickled garlic- get rid of that congestion!

But then again my mother is kind of a hippie. A well-dressed hippie who wears J. Crew & Ann Taylor with ballet flats, that is. She always prints out for me or forwards me interesting articles, homemade medicines, tinctures, recipes or blog posts. Most of the time, it’s stuff she wants me to make for her, but other times it’s how-to’s, tutorials, craft ideas, etc. Recently it was a blog post from Cheryl’s Delights about medicinal pickled garlic (which is stinkier & not nearly as fun, one would imagine, as medicinal marijuana- but not that I’d know from experience). The recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. According to that book:

“Garlic is the herb of choice in treating colds, flu, sore throats and poor or sluggish digestion… makes a potent internal and external antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial agent effective for treating many types of infection.”

The benefits of garlic are too long to list here, seriously. But I do suggest you go take a quick gander at the Wikipedia entry, so you can get a basic idea of just how good for you it really is. And if you’re not a fan of garlic breath you can take garlic supplements. However, if you’re pregnant, you might want to avoid taking garlic supplements, or at least talk to your doctor about it, as it can cause an increased risk of bleeding.

So anyway, my mother prints out the blog post, and I knew she wanted me to make her a jar of this. Seeing as how I’m the “pickling queen” around these here parts, and also probably because I’ve got more jars than I need at any given moment (which means plenty to spare), I knew it just made sense. The recipe seemed easy enough so I made a small 4 oz. jar of it as a test. Also because at the time, I only had two bulbs of garlic, I didn’t want to use up both of them and one bulb just filled that jar.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

I’ve only just started this batch exactly a month ago, so I haven’t had a chance to get to part 2 (the honey part). I’ll probably do that some time this week.

It’s kind of a shame I didn’t know about this over the winter, since garlic is supposed to help with colds & flu… not to mention vampires. Although I wouldn’t mind some of those. Anyway, the deal is, this is supposed to preserve all the benefits of fresh garlic without the really harsh bite fresh garlic can have. Apparently it’s much milder this way and you can eat it out of the jar like candy. If candy tasted like garlic. Which it really doesn’t. I love garlic, but let’s face it, it ain’t exactly a Snickers bar. And that’s precisely why I prefer my garlic roasted, or sauteed, or in sauce, etc.

I’ll skip the raw garlic, thanks. My mom will be the guinea pig with this one.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill a jar with peeled fresh cloves of garlic (any size jar).
  2. Pour raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s) over the garlic until it’s “covered.”
  3. Put lid on the jar & leave jar in a warm place for 3-4 weeks.
  4. After 3-4 weeks, strain off the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Set aside half of that liquid to use in another capacity (quick pickles, marinades, salad dressing, etc).
  5. Take the remaining half and pour it into a saucepan with an equal amount of raw local honey. Heat over a very low heat, no more than 100° F so as not to kill the good stuff in the honey, stirring until the vinegar & honey are mixed.
  6. Pour that mixture back over the garlic. Allow to sit for ANOTHER 3-4 weeks, it should keep for a year.
  7. Eat!

Just so you know, however: the garlic might change color, to a green or a blue. This is totally normal & is quite common in pickling (for example, click here). It’s harmless & doesn’t effect the flavor or safety of the product- it’s just a chemical reaction. If you need proof, here’s a webpage from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences explaining the exact reason behind it. These photos were taken shortly after making them, but within a week some of the cloves were greenish blue. I PROMISE YOU, as strange as it looks, it is 100% fine to eat.

Pickled garlic using raw apple cider vinegar & raw local honey- it's not just food but medicine.

So when it’s all said & done, I’ll pass it on to my mother, and she’ll let me know how it is so I can update you all. Until then, if you’re into more homemade medicinals or folk medicines, try these: lemon-&-spice-infused honey to prevent colds & flu, homemade Neosporin, homemade cough syrup, and homemade Vapo-Rub.

Ya damn hippies.

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.

Winter warmth in the form of… squash.

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Christmas is over. The cold weather is just kicking into high gear here in New York, as is expected.

I’m guessing most people in your house are preoccupied with new gadgets or toys right about now. That’s the best part of the week after Christmas: playing with your new toys! And sleeping late, too, if you’re able. Because pretty soon it’s back to business. Back to work, back to school… and it’ll be cold out there. So when it’s blustery & cold, and the hubbub of Christmas has worn down, and even when the new year doesn’t feel so new anymore, it’s important to have something warm & comforting to look forward to. Or to come home to. You know, a reason to turn on the oven. And of course, for me, that warmth almost always comes in the form of desserts. Although a beautiful new coat & some boots doesn’t hurt either… this is about pie.

Black pie plate from Longaberger, black appetizer plate from Ikea, little cocotte from Le Creuset

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I found this recipe way back in November when I bought a little book that contained a variety of best-loved pie recipes; all kinds, for all seasons, from frozen to fruity to creamy to nutty. I originally made it for Thanksgiving, and since it was such an enormous hit, I felt lucky to have some leftover frozen squash in the freezer so I could make it again. And that I did, just this week. The beauty of it is that you can use any of the following squash:

  • Acorn Squash
  • Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cheese Pumpkins
  • Delicata Squash
  • Hubbard Squash
  • Kabocha Squash
  • Red Kuri Pumpkins
  • Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Turban Squash
  • White Pumpkins

Depending on the kind you use, your pie will have a slightly different color. I used butternut squash, myself, so my pie has an orange-y brown color that isn’t quite a pumpkin-y color. A white pumpkin might yield a more yellow color, a rouge vif d’etampes would give a redder color, etc. Also, while you can in theory use any of the aforementioned squash, depending on the variety you use you may have to puree the flesh or dice it more finely before using it- especially the varieties that hold their shape while cooking.

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable,[1] representing several species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C[citation needed], potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).[2]

It is also a source of iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content.

-Wikipedia

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WINTER SQUASH PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 single 9″ pie crust (frozen works just fine if you need to use it, just defrost according to package directions)
  • 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) frozen (or fresh) winter squash, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (thawed & drained first if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees F. Prepare your pie crust, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the squash, sugar, vanilla, egg & sour cream thoroughly. Add in pumpkin pie spice and salt, and whisk. Then whisk in the evaporated milk.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until set (mine took about 55 minutes).
  4. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and top with toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

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It was so quick to make, the hardest part (and the longest part) was making the pie crust. May I just say, I think this is one of the best pies- visually- that I’ve made so far. The crust came out great, which is usually a problem for me. I’m so impatient I have a hard time making a pretty crust. I just wanna get it into the pie plate and start baking. But this time I ended up with a beautiful pie.

And what’s pie without whipped cream!?

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I decided to make a brandy whipped cream, a spin-off on that bourbon whipped cream I made before Thanksgiving. It was absolutely perfect with the pie. Regular whipped cream would be just fine, but you know me, I always have to be different. Besides, my grandma always used to say that brandy was “warming”… so it just makes sense to use it at a time when everyone wants to be warm & escape the cold. Not for anything, but check out that big, billowy brandy whipped cream. It’s to die for. I prefer to serve the whipped cream & hazelnuts on each slice individually, but you could also pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the pie and then sprinkle the nuts on top of it before you bring the pie out to serve it. That is, if you’re sure there won’t be much leftover, if any- the whipped cream doesn’t hold up well in the fridge (it’d have to be re-whipped due to lack of stabilizers & preservatives). It would make a lovely presentation that way. I know my audience, though, and that they can’t finish a pie like this in one sitting. So I keep everything separate.

It’s also easier to eat the whipped cream by the spoonful that way. But don’t tell anyone I told you that. Stay cozy & well-fed my friends.

Sources & credits: Recipe from Best-Loved Pies, Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Ikea black plate, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (black shown).

Hey melanzane, melanzane sott’olio.*

I first saw a recipe for this last summer on a blog, & I thought: wow, that’s interesting. Coming from a decidedly non-Italian family, I myself never ate eggplant in oil. I never had it in my house. However, I will say I never remember it being a staple in any homes I went to, either. Even the Italian ones. I had an Italian uncle by marriage, and I went to him & my aunt’s home for many dinners that he cooked: pasta fagioli, homemade pizzas, lasagne, etc. I also had many Italian friends with big old school Italian families & crazy huge Sunday dinners, and I never once saw a jar of eggplant in oil. I can’t say I really paid attention to something like that though, especially as a child. But apparently regardless of my total unobservance,  it is quite popular, as both a condiment and side dish.

I actually never ate eggplant as a child or young adult.

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I didn’t eat an eggplant myself until I was almost 27 years old.

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I know you’re probably thinking I’m insane. I’m not, I assure you. We can skip discussing my strange food phobias/quirks for now, okay? Let’s just stick to the topic at hand, which is eggplant in oil.

Let me give you the full background here: Last summer we were hit with Hurricane Irene (which thankfully was Category 1 as it got closer, but more like Tropical Storm Irene by the time it actually hit here) and she was a bitch. New York is never hit with hurricanes; by never I mean there have only been about 84 of them since the 17th century. And most of them- only if they hit directly and at their full power- have been, if not devastating, then massively destructive. Probably because it takes a monster of a storm to wind it’s way all the way up here keeping that strength the whole time. So Irene hits, & we were incredibly lucky to still have had a home, a car and power by the time she left, because many people here didn’t. But after that whatever veggies were on the vine before it hit pretty much weren’t anymore. I knew this would be the case ahead of time, so I just pulled all the vegetables that were growing (and were a decent/useable size) right off the plants. That meant that my eggplant wasn’t exactly large, it definitely wouldn’t have fed a family with an abundant eggplant parmigiana, which was my original plan. It was small and not very mature. After reading the aforementioned blog post about “melanzane sott’olio”, I sliced it up into thin slices just I like I saw on that blog and put it in a jar with some garlic, olive oil & oregano for my mother.

Not for me. Like I said above, it took me almost 30 years for me to even deign to try an eggplant. And I did, and I came to this realization: I am not a big eggplant fan. Unless it’s fried beyond recognition in seasoned bread crumbs & oil until crispy, and then slathered with melted mozzarella cheese & a delicious tomato sauce. And even then? I’d much rather have something else. Like the Local Kitchen said, it’s the slimy factor that gets me, I get the icks from slimy food (that explains why I don’t like oysters, either). The frying makes it crispy and kind of disguises the sliminess. Although at my friend Samantha’s wedding, I had a delish veggie casserole type-thing with a pastry topping & ricotta cheese, kinda like a veggie version of a pot pie, and it was loaded with eggplant. Not fried. But I still ate that shit like it was going out of style. That’s a rarity with me. However I know my mother loves eggplant, so I thought maybe she’d want some melanzane sott’olio for her sandwiches.

And whattaya know? It was a success! The tiny little 8 oz. jar I made for her didn’t last very long. I vowed to her I’d make another (larger) jar once I got my hands on fresh eggplant next summer (which would be this summer).

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But I didn’t grow any eggplant this summer. And time got away from me; I swear I don’t know where the summer went! I actually forgot ALL about the eggplants in oil until I saw that white eggplant at the market. It was sitting with a bunch of other white eggplants, and right next to it a bunch of equally lovely but skinnier lavender eggplants. All locally grown. All absolutely lovely. And I thought to myself, “I think it’s time for some melanzane sott’olio.” They were so pretty and plump, and for the most part unblemished. I figured I’d buy one of the bigger white ones and make a jar of pickled eggplants for my mother.

I’m such a good daughter.

Eggplant can be tricky for a lot of people. Most people complain it’s bitter, so they use the salting method to remove the bitterness. But the trouble is most of them either don’t let it “sweat” long enough or they don’t rinse all the salt off properly, so then it’s either still too bitter or it’s too salty. I’m quite sure that many an eggplant dish, all over the world, has been tossed in the garbage due to this mistake. But if you rinse it well, and then cook it in the vinegar mixture and squeeze it well, then you’ll be just fine. Also, if you’re using the white eggplant, it’s much less bitter than it’s darker counterparts, so this step is skip-able. I didn’t bother doing it, and everyone agreed there was no bitterness. Though if you’re a worry wart it won’t hurt you to do it. Just make sure you rinse all that salt off!

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It’s a very simple process. My directions that follow are for making ONE pint of this, using ONE eggplant. Adjust as necessary. Other than your eggplant, you’ll need:

  • salt
  • a container of olive oil (I used extra virgin, decent quality but not a very expensive one since it will just absorb the other flavors anyway)
  • oregano
  • hot pepper flakes
  • some red or white wine vinegar (depending on your taste), or even just plain old white vinegar if that’s all you’ve got.

If you want to add some thinly sliced garlic, basil leaves or other herbs that’s up to you. You’ll also need a pint jar. It’s fine to use one that isn’t a canning jar because there’s no canning involved, so make use of your old cleaned-out sauce jars or whatever.

Wash the eggplant and cut off the ends. If you prefer it peeled, then do that. I left the skin on mine, but you can’t tell since it’s white. There’s nothing wrong with the skin, it’s perfectly edible, so leave it on if it doesn’t bother you. If you use a purple eggplant it’ll add a nice color to the jar. Slice the eggplant fairly thin into about 1/4″ rounds, or if you prefer, slice it into strips. Using a colander over a large bowl, place a layer of eggplant in the colander then salt it. Repeat this process until all the eggplant is in the colander and salted. Place a plate on top of the eggplant and then weigh it down. I like to use a bag of sugar or flour if I have it around. Leave it like this for 8-12 hours. All the bitterness and moisture in the eggplant will leech out because of the salt. Now you can rinse it thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly. If you want to do it one more time, you can, but you don’t have to. And if you do, don’t leave it another 12 hours- I think 2 would suffice for a second round. Place the rinsed off eggplant on a plate covered with paper towels (or a clean, thin dish towel), making sure the paper towels hang over the sides of the plate. Raise the sides of the paper towels to form a “bag” holding the eggplant and gently squeeze the remaining moisture out. Now you’re ready to cook.

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In a medium saucepan, combine roughly 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring it to a boil and add the eggplant. Cook the eggplant for about 2-3 minutes, making sure it’s all submerged by pressing down with a wooden spoon occasionally. If you’d prefer to cook the eggplant in small batches, then you only need 1/2 cup of each. Place the cooked eggplant on another plate covered with paper towels and let dry for 20 minutes, or pat and squeeze dry once it’s cool enough to touch. I like to keep the eggplant hot before I add it to the jar, so I squeeze it and pat it dry (or as dry as I can get it). Add the cooked pickled eggplant to a clean jar in layers: first adding a few slices of eggplant, then some oregano, a few more slices of eggplant, then some hot pepper flakes, and so on, covering each layer with olive oil. Do this until your jar is full. I used dried oregano from my garden last summer, but fresh is okay too. You can add some chopped or thinly sliced garlic, like I mentioned above, if you wish, or even some basil. Maybe even a sliced fresh Bell pepper, if you want to get really wild & crazy. Close the lid and once the jar is cooled (if you filled it with hot eggplant, that is), pop that bad boy in the fridge. The olive oil will congeal, but if you remove it from the fridge and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen for 15-20 minutes before eating, it’ll re-liquify.

Some say to let it sit for a week or so to let the flavors fuse. My mom eats hers as soon as I give it to her. Do as you like.

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Some ideas for eating it? Well, for one it’s good right out of the (room temperature) jar. Also, it’s excellent on sandwiches, pretty much any kind. My most recent utilization (when I’m cooking for other people, people who enjoy eggplant much far than I) is to add some of it to hot pasta, with or without sauce. Just sprinkle a little cheese on top to finish it off and you’re good to go.

I have heard/seen people who leave the jars out on the counter for weeks (some say months) at a time. They have never died of botulism, nor did their ancestors who did things this way for centuries. There are also people who process the jars of eggplant in oil using a waterbath canner to seal them for shelf-storage. I’ve done this with peppers, myself, although they never really lasted long enough to pose a health risk either way (and were refrigerated once opened). However, I can’t in good conscience tell you to do this, because… well.. this is where I have to do the USDA/FDA public service announcement:

Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of the disease-causing Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days. There are no canning recommendations. Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in the oil. The very best sanitation and personal hygiene practices must be used. Pesto is an uncooked seasoning mixture of herbs, usually including fresh basil, and some oil. It may be frozen for long term storage; there are no home canning recommendations.

Preserving in oil is currently not recommended. Oil may protect botulism organisms trapped in a water droplet. Furthermore, oil may have a deleterious effect on lid gaskets and the at least one manufacturer of home canning lids recommends against it.

-USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation

I have to be responsible and make you aware of any dangers that keeping this out unrefrigerated presents. That said, you’re all adults and you can make your own decisions. If you can make the decision to buy cigarettes, buy a 2-liter of Coke or get behind the wheel of your car after you’ve had a few beers, then you can decide for yourself whether or not this is a risk you want to take. I spoke briefly during my Canning for Dummies post about safely canning foods, and oils can’t be safely canned (even in a pressure canner). Therefore, it’s only recommended for use immediately or to store in the fridge. But again… you’re all adults. And you’re going to do what you want either way. I just don’t have to be responsible for it! I did say, “I told you so.”

And if you enjoy this idea, why not try some shrimp this way?

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*Sung to the tune of ‘Mambo Italiano,’ of course.

Quick & dirty chive vinegar pickles.

Oh, pickles.

You come into my life oh so quickly this time of year… and get eaten up oh so quickly. And then I’m hounded for more pickles by the pickle monsters that plague my existence. Good thing I love them. And that I’ve got plenty of jars to fill.

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Yeah, I’ve got a lot. That’s just the tip of the iceberg- there’s a load of stuff in my fridge that needs to be cleaned out and those jars will soon join these in awaiting their new fates. Remember my chive blossom vinegar? And the ensuing chive blossom potato salad & egg salad? Well, I knew I wasn’t finished with that vinegar. I had more ideas bubbling in my brain and this was one of them. I figured, why not try making pickles with it?

And I decided on making cold-pack refrigerator pickles. I’ve been on a pickle kick lately. And most of them have been fridge pickles, I guess ’cause it’s so hot it’s just easier.

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;When I say ‘quick & dirty’ in the title, I don’t mean they’re literally dirty, obviously. No olives in this martini. They’re just really quick to make, no processing time required. They do need a week or two to stew in the fridge before they can be eaten, however. But it’s a small price to pay for homemade pickles without the “canning.” Here’s my favorite quick version from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. It’s fun and easy and you can pickle just about anything this way.

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Some ideas for fridge pickles? Zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, okra, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, garlic, etc… or a mix of all of the above!

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And you can use any jar you want for fridge pickles. An old spaghetti sauce jar works just fine.

REFRIGERATOR CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR PICKLES (adapted from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking’s refrigerator pickles)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chive blossom vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of picking spice, dill seed, mustard seed
  • 2 pieces fresh dill (if using, use less dill seed, about half)
  • Cucumbers; as far as the amount you’ll need, I used about 2 and a half smallish/thinnish cukes for one pint jar… but she says:

Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar.

The weight of your starting produce will vary depending on what you’re pickling. Eyeball it at the market, and if you end up with too little veg, just use a smaller jar (or make more brine to account for extra space in the jar).

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your dry spices in the dry jars, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal.
  3. DON’T SEAL TIGHTLY. And I quote: “Don’t screw on the lid on as tightly as you possibly can or the lid might pop off when you go to open them in a couple weeks. Vinegar breaking down the veggies inside a jar causes a little release of gas, and leaving the lid loose will let that escape. [I know what you’re wondering and the answer is no. If your pickles have been stored in the fridge, it’s not possible for botulism spores to activate.]“
  4. Put them in the back of your fridge and forget about them for at least a week. “Two weeks is better, three is the best” according to her. They keep indefinitely, but if you’ve got some sitting around more than 6 months, I’d ditch ‘em.

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That beautifully colored tangy vinegar is going to make a chive-y, dill-y, super tangy pickle. A perfect compliment to potato salad or grilled stuff; burgers & hot dogs, etc. If you prefer a less chive-y flavor, or should I say, a more subtle one, then just change the ratio from 1/2-1/2 to 1/4-3/4 in favor of the white vinegar. But make sure you use half water, half vinegar and the full tablespoon salt. Any vinegar is fine to use as long as it’s 5% acidity. Red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or just plain old white vinegar.

I have to say I was surprised it wasn’t slightly more pink in the jar, as when it was boiling up it was a pale pink. Hm. I’m half tempted to just use 100% chive vinegar next time just to get pink pickles!

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In case you’re wondering, you can pickle anything this way: cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, peppers, etc. I have a bit more information on refrigerator pickles here. If you don’t have the equipment to do actual canning, refrigerator pickles & refrigerator jams are the way to go, as are freezer jams. You can make amazing stuff that way. Sure, it’s not shelf-stable and you need to put it in the fridge/freezer right away, but it’s a good way to get started. That way you can see if canning is for you. If you decide you want to explore canning further, you need a decent amount of background information and some important materials. A great place to get started is the USDA National Center for Home Preservation.

And speaking of canning, in a few days- on August 21st most likely- I’ll be blogging about the very basics of waterbath canning, I’m calling it “Canning for Dummies” to be exact. So if you’re interested in getting involved in basic canning, keep an eye out for that post. Not that you’re a dummy or anything. I’m just saying.